Why it’s right to extend hate crime legislation to members of subcultures

Hate crime is when someone is targeted because the assailant hates ‘what’ that person is or what the assailant perceives them to be. In some quarters, there has been an expression of dismay that Manchester Police will now record criminal acts against subcultures as hate crimes, where there is evidence of this.

Hate crime is when someone is targeted because the assailant hates ‘what’ that person is or what the assailant perceives them to be.

In some quarters, there has been an expression of dismay that Manchester Police will now record criminal acts against subcultures as hate crimes, where there is evidence of this.

Currently, legislation only recognises five characteristics as eligible for recording: race, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

These characteristics are mostly visible, may be what people are born with birth, or something that becomes integral to their identity later in life. People with characteristics in the existing categories have borne the brunt of hatred arising out of prejudice, discrimination, social isolation and marginalisation.

There isn’t unanimous agreement that there should be some classes of hatred and criminal activity that warrant special protection in law. This view is aligned to the social antagonism against equalities and human rights legislation.

Measures intended to address inequalities, such as affording greater protection for those more vulnerable to social hatred, are often viewed suspiciously by those who are not included under the umbrella of added protection. Where there is acceptance of a further measure of protection to five classes of characteristics currently included in hate crime legislation, there is resentment at it being extended to those who are members of subcultures.

This resentment is driven by widespread hostility to people who choose visible identification with alternative, unconventional lifestyles, and choose to show this in their appearance. Suspicion of youth culture, and associating it with deviance and criminality also underlies the vulnerability to becoming victims of violent crime.

The murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007 was the impetus for the campaign for legal protection of members of subcultures. But many argue that this is a step too far because people embracing subcultures are choosing a lifestyle that subjects them to hate and that membership of a subculture is a frivolous, passing phase, compared say to religion, and can be abandoned without serious impact on the person.

It is claimed that this waters down the notion of hate as experienced by traditional victims. The fact is, however, that a civilised society cannot claim to be so if it fails to protect those who are hated, attacked for no other reason than they outliers from the mass.

People with a propensity to wreak devastation on victims and their families through hate should face added legal sanctions if a civilised society is to be maintained. Finally, where would society be without subcultures? The most acclaimed international art, music, and film genres have emerged out of the creativity of people who whose appearances were considered deviant in their day.

2 Responses to “Why it’s right to extend hate crime legislation to members of subcultures”

  1. Julian

    If someone gets beaten up and it seems to be a random attack, the attacker will be convicted of the crime. Why should there be a different sentence if it becomes apparent that the victim went to Eton and the attacker hates people who went to Eton?

  2. Etular

    Due to the fact that, arguably, it suggests predetermination – If the attacker chooses to discriminate between people, only attacking those who went to Eton, it’s much easier to imply there was some sort of long-term dysfunctional belief and thought process behind the attack.

    This is in comparison to a random attack, which could simply be seen as a more spur-of-the-moment, indiscriminate, unplanned act – obviously no better, in many cases arguably worse, but also suggesting that it’s either unlikely to be repeated, or that the person is of a naturally unstable disposition and is likely to receive treatment.

    Mainly, it could be seen as the difference between intent and non-intent; but I think part of it also comes down to the moral belief that people simply shouldn’t be judged and discriminated against based on the virtue of their birth, development or choices in life – be that going to Eton, or identifying as a Goth.

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