THE mum of murdered gap year student Sophie Lancaster has praised Greater Manchester Police for its war on sub-culture hate crime.

Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter Sophie, 20, died after being attacked in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, in 2007, for dressing ‘like a goth’, commended the force on the first anniversary of GMP’s decision to recognise offences against members of alternative sub-cultures as hate crimes.

In the first 12 months, there have been 15 of these crimes across Greater Manchester, with some victims being assaulted or wounded.

Three forces have followed GMP’s lead - Durham, Warwickshire and West Mercia.

Sylvia said: “I’d like to thank GMP and the other forces who are now taking the same firm approach to this type of offending.

“No-one should have to tolerate abuse simply because they like certain clothing, make up or music, and I would urge young people to have the confidence to be themselves and be proud of who they are.

“Hate crime often starts with insults but can easily escalate, and although you may think you are powerless, you aren’t, as you can always report it.

“If you’ve seen someone else being verbally abused or physically attacked, don’t be a bystander – pick up the phone and tell police immediately.”

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said: “Hate crime is a blight on communities, and in some cases tragically costs lives.

“We work with many organisations to raise awareness of what hate crime is and how victims can be supported, and encourage all communities to challenge and report it.

“Over the last 12 months, people in Greater Manchester have not had to tolerate hate crime simply for expressing their alternative sub-culture identities, and we hope they now feel more reassured that we are committed to tackling this issue, and to dealing firmly with offenders.

“Our officers now have much better awareness of all types of hate crime, so we can offer improved support to victims and assess more accurately the potential for repeat offending.”