The news that Greater Manchester Police will be recording hate crime motivated by prejudice or hatred towards people from alternative subcultures is very much welcomed. The impact of hate crime is greater than other forms of crime because of its targeted nature: it is an attack on an individual because of who they are. What we work towards at Stop Hate UK is the elimination of all forms of hate crime and discrimination.
Hate crime is not a new concept. Throughout history there are many examples of groups being marginalised, oppressed and discriminated against. Many of the world's conflicts have stemmed from hatred towards particular groups, and genocide is hate crime in its extremist form. Hate crime is most definitely a human rights issue and should be treated as such.
Through my work at Stop Hate UK I hear about the sorts of incidents that people experience and the effects of hate crime on a daily basis. Some people are afraid to leave their own homes because they are targeted as soon as they leave their front door. Others feel like life is no longer worth living. People who have experienced other forms of crime may be able to rationalise their victimisation as random in nature - "It could have happened to anyone". Victims of hate crime only have their identity as the reason they have been targeted - "It happened to me because of who I am".
This is an interesting time for the hate crime agenda. The step taken by Greater Manchester Police to record and monitor hate crime against people from alternative subcultures has coincided with a review of hate crime legislation being carried out by the Law Commission. The Law Commission is currently consulting on whether there should be a change in legislation to include disability, gender identity and sexual orientation aggravated offences, alongside racially and religiously aggravated offences, and whether offences of stirring up hatred on the grounds of disability and gender identity should be introduced. It may be that in time the Law Commission will be asked to look at whether legislation ought to be introduced to incorporate hate crimes against people from alternative subcultures.
'Living in a different world', published two weeks ago, highlighted a lack of understanding about what disability hate crime is and the application of existing legislation in the courts. It also demonstrated some lack of awareness in how to respond to disabled people who may have experienced disability hate crime. If there is one key question that people need to ask when responding to someone who has experienced a crime that has the potential to be hate-motivated, it's why the victim thinks it happened to them.
Later this month is the 20th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence. The lessons learned from the recommendations made in the Macpherson Report in 1999 were just as poignant then as they are today. Victims of hate crime need support from the criminal justice system and to have the incidents they experience recognised for what they truly are. It is clear that much work still needs to be done on challenging hate crime in all its forms.