Attacks on punks and goths are now hate crimes in Manchester

Manchester, England has expanded its hate-crime laws to include attacks on the basis of dress or an "alternative sub-culture identity." The expansion follows on the fatal 2007 attack on Sophie Lancaster, whose attackers chose her because of her goth identity.

"People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime," Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said.

Manchester police said the change would enable officers to give more support to victims of anti-punk or anti-Goth crime. But it won't necessarily mean tougher sentences.

Although British judicial guidelines call for people convicted of hate crimes to receive tougher sentences, the Manchester decision has not been recognised nationally.

Manchester police to record attacks on goths and punks as hate crimes [Guardian/AP]

(Image: Lancashire Police)


  1. In before “Political correctness gone mad!!!” and people who don’t understand that when it comes to crime, intent really does matter.

    1. Actually we punish intent all the time. That is why Assault is a separate crime from attempted murder. It is why an accident that causes death is called Manslaughter. If we didn’t laws and punishments would be even more arbitrary.

  2. Crime is crime. The fact that it happens to a black person, gay, goth? I’m not arguing slippery slope or predilection nonsense, but pluralism (the goal) should (must?) eventually buck that sheltering wing. That time may not be now, but I’m uneasy about the particularity of this ‘aggravation.’

    1. Crime is crime.

      Bullshit is bullshit. Some crimes are committed for the express purposes of terrorizing certain groups and preventing them from participating in any kind of public life.

      1. Agreed. But if the U.S. is any indication, once-removed representation will always afford someone an opportunity to make the distribution less than equal. Think white, male, etc. I’m certainly not suggesting some minority cabal. But at a certain micromanaged point, the workability of leveling measures strains credulity.  

        Maybe we cross wires about the endangerment of this particular species? Are there even discrete ‘goths’ any more? I thought they went the way of the JNCO. If it’s vibrant in the UK, that’s my misunderstanding.

        1. Not sure why assaulting and murdering people for dressing like goths is different than doing it for wearing a yarmulke or going out in public without a headscarf and veil.

          1. Well I don’t think you can completely dismiss the slippery slope argument. Police love being punitive. God they love it. And any law once on the books especially one as broad and non specific as this one will eventually be thrown against the wall and twisted, What constitutes a subculture? is it dress, attitude, political affiliation? 

            As an an ex punk (and a punk in my heart still) I am for this but the Punk in me says fuck cops because they will use anything at their disposal and use it against you.

          2. Police love being punitive. God they love it.

            That’s spectacularly incorrect in this context. The police have spent…. well, pretty much forever… dismissing claims by non-white people, women, LGBT people, etc. in favor of not arresting, not charging, not prosecuting and not convicting those at the top of the privilege pyramid – straight, white, moneyed men. The police, like all bullies, enjoy punishing the weak and vulnerable.

          3. Exactly. Assume a fight breaks out in a gentrifying area of the city. Between a white working class resident of the  and one of the more middle class  college educated people moving in. On the douchbag scale they are about equal. A fight breaks out and during the fight someone yells out “You fucking hipster.” The possibility exists that the poor white resident is up for a hate crime (I don’t say black because too many ways already exist to prosecute people of color.) You are right the law will be applied unevenly and at the prosecutor’s discretion and thus exists to be abused. 

            In this day and age Subculture is to vague to be applied as an actual law and no matter what the intent straight white monied people will still find a way to use the law either applied or not to their advantage. 

            If you want the same punitive effect you can craft out a well thought out anti bullying law that would apply to everyone and not put something into the context of deciding what is or isn’t subcultural. In my opinion this definition of hate crime is too vague.

            ps i hate this threading I am replying to antinous below me

          4.  I don’t buy it.  In my experience the sorts of people who become police are also the sorts of people with strong aversions to non-conformists. 

            Like Cowicide said, read the article.  I guess I understand what you’re saying but I think it’s a bit of a stretch — your example would be called an “edge case” in software development.  Meanwhile we’re talking about a public policy that explicitly protects non-conformists from private citizens who take it on themselves to be conformity police.

    2. What you’re missing here is that the crime is motivated by the belief that a person’s otherness is a valid motivation for wishing to harm them, and for actually visiting harm upon them.   If someone beats you up because they hate white people (which, if you are not a white person, would be pretty weird, but let’s leave that aside for the moment), that’s a hate crime.   It’s the thinking behind the crime that makes it a hate crime.

      The point of having a special law about hate crimes is to understand the problem from an epidemiological perspective rather than from the perspective of the individual crime.   It’s not that people who commit hate crimes are special and bad in a way that people who dd the same act with a different motivation would not be.   It’s simply that they have a different disease, which requires a different treatment.

  3. Interesting. I can kind of understand why they’re doing this. The mental processes involved in committing that crime are the same, whether the victim was born a different race or chose to differentiate themselves in some way. The perpetrator has decided that because of some irrelevant characteristic, you are less than human and need to be hurt. It’s a fundamentally silly justification, much more senseless than revenge for some action they took or some sort of self-advancement motive.

    1. Probably best to read beyond the headline:

      “People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime”.

        1. The freedom to commit a hate crime is not the same as freedom from hate crimes. In most of the developed world we favour the latter, not the former; the US is different, but their brand of freedom is already heaped in so much irony it hurts.

          1. Well I was only talking about Nazis who don’t commit hate crimes, instead fall victim to a crime.
            Can they claim “that expressing their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime”?

          2. And yes, even people committing hate crimes shouldn’t be subjected to hate crimes. Fortunately the justice system isn’t based on vigilanteism, so that’s already covered.

          3. I know what you mean.
            So to clarify: Not all Nazis commit hate crimes.
            Of course only if we assume hate speech and hate crime are still to be distinguished.


            Can they claim “that expressing their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime”?

            Their “sub-culture” is a hate group itself, so obviously: NO.

  4. The club I gig at has been supporting the Sophie Lancaster Foundation for years. Glad something good can come out of such a horrible act.

  5. This is a dark day for Mods and Rockers.  Does the UK care nothing about their hooligan heritage?

  6. isn’t it part of the punk lifestyle to be beaten up now and then? gives them something to be angry about.

      1. Not sure if the Ø itself makes me a dick. Nor, should I add, have I ever affiliated with black metal (more than the bare minimum) or encouraged punk-stomping. From observation, I have noticed that punks often don’t shy away from a fight, even if they are doomed to lose. And they seem happy with that.But you are of course free to assume whatever you like.

        1. Even supposing this was universally true of all punks — and since a significant percentage of punks are vegan pacifists I rather doubt it — but even assuming it was there would still be a bit of a difference between a punk voluntarily throwing down with one or two douchebags and a punk involuntarily having his head stomped by five or so douchebags while he was already on the ground unconscious.

          Don’t you think?

          In case you missed it, we’re not talking about “fisticuffs”.

          1.  Of course it is a difference. A stomping is never acceptable. Not sure why it would make a difference that it’s a punk, though, as opposed to someone just not liking your face.

            But reading the comments above and below, I can see that the thing I really missed in this thread was “oh, this is too serious to make light comments about, we must be PC serious on this topic”.

        2.  Your knowledge about punk culture seems to extend to the “punk” episode of Quincy.

    1. Sure, and part of the Goth lifestyle is to morbidly obsess about death.   That doesn’t mean that it’s okay for someone other than the goth or punk to decide that now is the time for that person to be hurt or die, and to act on that decision.

  7. I lived in Bacup for 15 years, during the time of this attack and I will say this, the bastards that did it were always going to end up murdering someone, they were out of control. Regardless or not about various laws that make sure that those with money get away with crime (especially in the US) it is good that it is now a crime to beat the crap out of someone just for looking different to you.

    1. But surely it was always a crime to beat the crap out of someone. Why should the reason (or lack of it) make a difference?

      1. Because motive does matter.  For example, we (correctly) punish premeditated murder differently than death caused by negligent stupidity.  We punish stealing food out of hunger differently than stealing drugs to sell on the black market.  And a hate crime is not the same as a mugging.

  8.  Targeting another person because of their lifestyle is a form of  terrorism.
      Hate crimes are an assault on everyone’s freedom.

  9. Just to point out, Manchester has not changed the law (it doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of power). They have, however, changed the way they categorise targetted crime against social minorities (such as goths or punks).

  10. I’m concerned that this could be exploited by, say, racist Skinheads against people they’ve antagonized into violence. (Do they still have those?)

  11. It’s not like mods vs. rockers, more like English whites attacking English blacks. The chavs doing the assaulting aren’t really a cohesive group and wouldn’t normally describe themselves as such (and nor have the police labelled them). And I’ve been on the wrong end of “McChav” (Middle-Class Chav) violence, so class isn’t really so useful either here. Since the perpetrators aren’t a named lifestyle/cultural group, is this just a reference to “everyone else who isn’t a goth/punk/whatever”?

    And so “Chav” behaviours (like anti-intellectualism, physical aggression) are now normal, at least in Manchester.

    (Is anyone singling out & killing aggressive young white tracksuited males?)

  12. Am I the only one who didn’t see this as a hate-crime, but more of a “wrong place, wrong time” crime? I don’t think she was targeted because she was goth, but because she was in expensive looking clothes. They probably would have done the same thing if she was dressed in “normal”, but expensive clothing. My style is identified as goth, but if someone is a prick to me, I don’t look at it as a “goth vs normal people” situation. I see it as someone being a jerk. 

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