UK police force to treat attacks on goths as hate crimes

LONDON (AFP) - A British police force on Thursday began recording attacks on goths and punks as "hate crimes" similar to those suffered by people targeted because of their race, religion or sexual orientation.

Police in Manchester, northwest England, said the new policy would allow them to better protect goths, easily identified on the streets by their black clothes and pale make-up, and members of other "alternative sub-cultures".

"People who wish to express their alternative sub-culture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime - something that many people have to endure on a daily basis," said Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan of Greater Manchester Police.

The change follows the murder in 2007 of 20-year-old goth Sophie Lancaster in a town in northwest England.

Ms Lancaster was beaten to death in a park by a gang of teenagers who attacked the student and her boyfriend because of the way they were dressed.

Attacks on goths, punks and other "alternative" groups are not recognised as hate crimes under British law.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone acknowledged last year that the current list of hate crimes - which includes abuse motivated by the victim's race, disability, sexuality or transgender identity - is "incomplete".

The judge who jailed Ms Lancaster's killers in 2008 said the attack was a hate crime, and a charity set up in her memory has campaigned for it to be recognised as such.

Rock musicians including Courtney Love and Gary Numan have voiced support for the campaign.

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