The right to wear black

Sophie Lancaster

Emo is so 2003. But apparently, law enforcement has only just cottoned on to the fact that some young people like introverted rock music and the colour black. Or is that Goths? I’m confused, someone please explain. The point, though, is that “emo” is now a legally recognised sub-culture worthy of hate crime protection, according to Greater Manchester Police.

GMP made the first UK arrests for emo-targeted hate crime “at 6:30pm on Monday 8 April 2013 in Ashton town centre“, no less. A 14-year-old boy and 44-year-old man were released on bail last Sunday (I guess the young and the middle-aged have to find something in common) for assaulting a 16-year-old.

British police forces must, by law, fight crimes targeted at individuals (or property) because of their disability, race/ethnicity, religion/belief, sexuality or transgender identity. But, as in the case of GMP, they can also add other categories if they deem it necessary. According to their website, GMP have been somewhat inspired by the story of Sophie Lancaster who was beaten to death in 2007 in a park because of what she wore and how she behaved. Her mother set up a foundation and posted this video on YouTube to tell her story.

GMP also recognises goths, punks and metallers, according to news reports.

There aren’t yet statistics for how many crimes each year are targeted at sub-cultures like goths and emos. But youth crime and victimisation are particularly bad in the UK. In 2010/11 there were 1.4m arrests in England and Wales and just over 200,000 of them were of youngsters aged between 10 and 17. That age group accounts for 15.5 per cent of arrests but only 10.7 per cent of the population of “offending age” (over 10).

The British Crime Survey, which asks people about their experience of crime, found that in the year ending September 2012, an estimated 840,000 crimes were experienced by children between ages 10 and 15. Just over half were violent. Of all children in that age group, 13 per cent had been victims of crime in the past year.

Sounds like a lot, huh? But don’t let the tabloids fool you – crime is actually going down in the UK (Guardian graphic):

Crime figures graphic

Crime statistics are unfortunately riddled with mathematical and methodological problems, so take them with a pinch of salt. But even if you factor in a margin of error, there’s a pretty clear trend going on.

Having said that, I’d imagine that including additional sub-cultures in Manchester will push up that police force’s statistics for hate crime, thereby putting pressure on the elected Police and Crime Commissioner come the next election.

Bottom line: personally, I’m glad that GMP are recognising sub-culture hate crime. Just 40-odd other police forces still to go.

2 thoughts on “The right to wear black

  1. lahacienda

    Hate crime used to be negligible in Greece but in recent years it has been getting from bad to worse. I wish our police had the will (basically they do not give a damn) and the brains (they lack experience) to deal with it. great post!


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