Hate Crime and Alternative Lifestyles

Hate crime is something I have experienced and witnessed first hand.I know the effect it can have on individuals and communities, the feeling of anxiety of going out for the first time after being knifed by a gang of racists .I’ve been chased by someone with a baseball bat and I’ve been spat on and called a N***r a p**i and various other things. So its with personal experience that drive my passion to stop Hate Crime and why we in Suffolk need to all work together to let people know Hate Crime is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated on our streets and in our communities.

What is a Hate Crime- It is any criminal offence that is motivated by hostility or prejudice based upon the victims perceived:

*Disability
*Race
*Religion or Belief
*Sexual Orientation
*Transgender Identify
*Age

Hate Crime can take many forms including:

*Physical attacks I.e damage to property or physical assault.
*Threat of attack I.e offensive letters,abusive telephone calls or cyberbulling.
*Verbal abuse,insults or harassment I.e taunting,bulling at school or in the workplace.

There are also Hate Incidents, these may or may not constitute a criminal offence and is perceived by the person, or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hatred.

Most Police forces in the Uk when monitoring Hate Crime use target groups which include the previously mentioned Race,Religion,Disability,Age, Sexual Orientation and Transgender Identity.

But some police forces have started to include another group and have started to include an “Alternative Lifestyle” category.

An “Alternative Lifestyle” is when someone chooses to diverse from what is perceived to be the cultural norm and is considered to included so called Grunge,Punk,Hippie,Emo,Goth and Heavy Metal subcultures. The issues people from these group faced came to public attention with the brutal murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007.

Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were attacked in a park simply because of the way they dressed. They were subjected to a vicious mob attack by a group of people. The gang first assaulted Robert and as he lay unconscious Sophie cradled him in her arms the gang then turned their attention to her. One witness described how the gang were jumping up and down on her head and turned to “celebrate” with each other.

As sicking as this assault was the media attention brought to light it was not an isolated incident. Recently Alexys Becerra was viciously assaulted by a gang of six girls just because she had bright red hair and tattoos. I have recently discussed this issue with a friend of mine and she was telling me of incidents she and some of her friends have faced just because of their appearance.
 
So how do we move forward. I think it is essential that we find out the depth of the issue in Suffolk at the moment Suffolk Police do not include Alternative Lifestyles as one of their target groups when recording hate crime. I have written to the office of the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner asking him to look at amending the target groups to include this category and I have been advised that he will discuss this issue with the hate crime service and the Constabularys Diversity Unit.

I would like to see a drive to raise awareness of what a Hate Crime is and how it can be reported. We need to get the message out that we will not tolerate Hate Crime and people need not fear coming forward.

In suffolk we are lucky to have some organizations that are fighting the good fight to see these goals met.

*Suffolk Hate Crime Service work to support people and families who experience or witness Hate Crime or Hate Incidents in Suffolk.

They can be contacted on report@suffolkhatecrime.org.uk
01473 668966
 www.suffolkhatecrime.org.uk

*The Suffolk Hate Crime Partnership which aims to raise awareness and deliver training and support.

The founding members of the Partnership are JIMAS, One Voice 4 Travelers, Victim Support, Optua, Suffolk LGB&T Network and ISCRE

They can be contacted though
Yvette Gallager located at ISCRE on 01473 406541 or yvette@iscre.org.uk

All the partner organizations contact details are available on www.hatecrimepartnership.org.uk

There is a “Understanding Hate Crime in Suffolk” research project report that will be published in june 2013.

Update:I have been informed by Suffolk Hate Crime Service that even if the Police in Suffolk currently do not record alternative lifestyles separately the Suffolk Hate Crime Service say they will be dealt with as hate crime

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