Sentencing for Bury attackers
With thanks to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation who have begun circulating the news that sentencing has been handed down to the two men found guilty of assaulting two Goths in Bury, Manchester.
The case has been extensively covered by the Daily Mail, but we strive to offer alternatives to visiting the Daily Mail’s website. The Telegraph also has the disturbing video of the assault actually in progress which may affect sensitive viewers. Further coverage can be found by googling the victim in question.
This attack has been mentioned a few times on this blog, and we can now pass on the details of the case, and the sentence. One section that was repeated by the Mail was…
Kelsall of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, had committed 77 previous offences between 1980 and 2010 including assaulting a police officer and public order matters
His counsel stated… “He bears no prejudice on people who are Goths or who dress in that way. He accepts his actions were beyond acceptable.”
It is implied from the Mail’s coverage as well that there may have been some verbal altercation between McDermott and her companion, the victims, and Kelsall and Farrar. Regardless of the provocation, said Farrar’s lawyer…
‘There is no doubt the two parties did not like the look of each other. But whatever was said that is not an excuse.’
It is difficult at best to paint this as an alternatively-motivated attack - but it also cannot be discounted, and as a result we should be grateful that justice for such a vicious assault has been handed down.
“Hug a Goth” Day - August 24th
Over 40,000 people have signed up to a Facebook event encouraging them to Hug a Goth today. Twitter has naturally taken to it with its usual mix of heartfelt support and wry commentary, but there is a much more sombre reason for this pre-planned expression of affection.
Four years ago today, Sophie Lancaster - a 20-year-old resident of Bacup, Lancashire - and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, were assaulted by a drunken gang in a local park. Maltby later recovered, but Lancaster died after two weeks in a coma. Two youths, aged 15 and 16, were later convicted on murder and assault charges, with witnesses confirming suspicions that the couple were attacked due to their Goth appearance.
Goth culture recoiled in shock - appearance-motivated violence isn’t common, and this level of savagery horrified everyone. Sophie’s mother, and many other people from the Lancaster’s family, friends, and across the Goth scene rallied together to found the S.O.P.H.I.E Foundation, to honour Miss Lancaster’s memory, and to try and discourage the animosity that was let loose in that park in 2007.
One of their objectives is to raise official awareness of the danger to subcultural groups, and tonight at 8pm BBC Radio 4 will be holding a live radio debate, including Sylvia Lancaster discussing the murder, and the wider considerations of ‘hate crimes’, so-called ‘No-Go Areas’ in Britain’s cities and the responses necessary to prevent further tragedies.
So, behind this light-hearted public affection is a grimmer tale of discrimination, the dangers of standing out, and a combination of mourning and resolve to prevent it happening ever again. Perhaps hugging complete strangers dressed all in black who radiate a field of “don’t come near me” is a tall order, but if you get the chance - show them some tolerance, maybe even friendliness, or ask questions if you’re curious. I love explaining my cultural choices to people, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have launched The Blogging Goth.
Don’t jump to a negative conclusion, give the scary-looking people in the supermarket queue or waiting on the train station a chance - you’ll find them pleasantly surprised, and perfectly polite. Imagine how it feels, when everyone who is dressed ‘normally’ could be as scary as Goths are perceived - and who might even decide to resort to violence…