The mother of a schoolgirl murdered because she was a Goth has urged young people in Greater Manchester to be themselves, be proud of who they are and seek help if they are victims of hate crime.
Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter Sophie was killed in 2007 when she and her boyfriend were attached by a gang of youths, was speaking at a conference for young people on hate crime organised by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.
More than 130 young people from schools across Greater Manchester attended the conference on Monday 3 March at the Irish World Heritage Centre in north Manchester.
Sylvia, who set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation in memory of her daughter, told Sophie’s story to the young people, before urging them to take a stand against hate crime.
She said: “Hate crime affects families, friends and communities. It starts with language, but can easily escalate. You may think you are powerless, but you aren’t – you can report it.
“It’s about having the bottle to say who you are and to be proud of who you are. Some of you may be victims of hate crime or you may have seen it. If you have seen it, don’t be a bystander – pick up the phone and tell police.”
Sylvia also praised GMP for being the first police service in the country to recognise hate crime against people from “alternative cultures” – such as Goths or Emos.
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Jim Battle, who also spoke at the conference, added: “Sylvia has a powerful story to tell and the young people found it incredibly moving. By talking directly with pupils from schools across Greater Manchester through events such as the hate crime conference, we can help to educate children about the dangers of hate crime and how to feel comfortable enough to come forward about their suffering. We are extremely grateful for Sylvia’s time and dedication in helping us to ensure the tragic events that led to Sophie’s death are not repeated.
“Hate crime is a blight on our communities, and sadly young people often face its brunt. But central to this is that young people – and indeed everyone – can have the confidence to know that they are not alone.”
As well as hearing from Sylvia and Jim, the young people also heard from other speakers, including ACC Garry Shewan. The also took part in interactive workshops on hate crime affecting race, disability, sexual orientation and alternative cultures.
Hate crime can be reported in a number of ways. It can be reported directly to police by calling 101, visiting a police station or online at www.report-it.org.uk. Across Greater Manchester there are a network of independent centres with specially-trained people who can report the incident to police on a victim’s behalf. Details of these centres are available on the Commissioner’s website at gmpcc.org.uk/hatecrime.
For more information about the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, visit http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com.