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Sophie Lancaster's mum set to win tougher sentences for hate crimes
A MUM is set to win her battle for the creation of ‘Sophie’s Law’ in memory of her murdered daughter.
Sylvia Lancaster’s daughter Sophie was kicked and stamped to death because she was dressed like a goth.
Mrs Lancaster yesterday won a landmark victory when she met Justice Minister and Blackburn MP Jack Straw in London.
For nearly two years she has fought hard for attacks on people from sub cultures to be classified as a hate crime, allowing judges the power to issue tougher penalties.
Mrs Lancaster’s campaign has been calling for the introduction of what she labelled ‘Sophie’s Law’.
Mr Straw told her he could not alter the law but instead proposed changes to sentencing guidelines for judges. Sophie’s friends and campaigners hailed Mr Straw’s announcement as a ‘great victory’.
Sophie, 20, who grew up in Haslingden, was murdered in an attack in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, in August 2007, while trying to protect her boyfriend Robert Maltby.
They were targeted because they were dressed as goths. The brutality of the attack - and particularly a picture released by Sophie’s family showing her laying in a coma - shocked Britain.
Two boys, aged 15 and 16, were jailed for her murder last March.
Sophie’s mother Sylvia said the meeting with Mr Straw was a “huge step forward” in her campaign in the former Haslingden High School pupil’s memory.
She said: “Most young people like to express themselves through their appearance and why shouldn’t they?
“We want Jack Straw to bring the hate crime legislation into the 21st century, and recognise that a high proportion of people that dress differently often face attack and abuse.”
Kate Conboy-Greenwood, the manager of the Stamp Out Prejudice and Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere (Sophie) campaign, said it was a great victory.
She said: “What we are asking for is that when it comes to sentencing judges are given guidelines to treat attacks on people like Sophie as they would if it was a racially motivated assault, or a homophobic incident.
“We have been told by Mr Straw that changes can be made.
“People from alternative cultures and their families need to know that there is protection in the law.
“We need to make sure that the memory of Sophie, and what happened to her, is never forgotten. We have had an incredibly positive meeting and we are very happy about what we have been told so far.”
The family was joined by Greg Pope, Haslingden MP, and Janet Anderson, Rossendale MP, in the meeting.
Mr Pope said: “There needs to be legislation in place that protects those people who are just trying to go about their business and dress as they please.
“We have now been given assurances about changes to sentencing guidelines. Attacks like the one on Sophie must be branded as a hate crime.
“If that happens it will be a huge change to the law and that is all because of the hard work, bravery and determination of Sylvia.
“I can only imagine the suffering she has gone through but she has shown huge strength. She is an admirable woman.”
Senior judges and police officers will be consulted by the government on the proposed changes before they are adopted.
They will allow judges to issue greater sentences in crimes where they victim is from a sub culture.
This could range from months extra to years, depending on the crime.
Mr Straw said he did not think it was right to change the law, but that sentencing guidelines were what would have to be altered.
He said: “I met with Mrs Lancaster and it was very helpful to hear what she had to say.
“I agree with her that greater attention has to be paid to hate crimes that are carried against people in an alternative culture like goths.”
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