'Brilliant' workshop raises pupils' awareness about hate crime

Pupils from across Bedfordshire have taken part in a special one-day workshop raising awareness about hate crime and how to report it.

The event was part of a week of action which ends today (Friday) to encourage more people to speak out against hate crime.

Pupils from five schools – Queensbury Academy, in Dunstable; and Stockwood Park Academy, Chalk Hills Academy, the Avenue Centre for Education and Lea Manor High School, all in Luton – attended the event at UK Centre for Carnival Arts, in Luton, yesterday where the guest speaker was Sylvia Lancaster.

Sylvia’s daughter Sophie was murdered in 2007 following a vicious attack on her and her boyfriend Rob by a group of teenage males which is widely thought to be due to the fact the pair were dressed as goths.

Sylvia subsequently set up charity the Sophie Lancaster Foundation to “focus on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures in our communities”.

Charlie and Steph, two pupils from Queensbury Academy, said of the day: “It’s brilliant. The part about Sophie was really touching. We hadn’t heard about her story before. The talk wasn’t graphic but it certainly created an image in your mind.

“We have heard a bit about hate crime at school but not a lot. It’s amazing how serious sentences can be for hate crime, even if you’re not involved very much.”

Also speaking at the day were Olly Martins, Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and John McKinney, chairman of the Bedfordshire Hate Crime Partnership.

Speaking about the Hate Crime Ambassador initiative launched at the event, a Partnership spokesman said: “On behalf of the Partnership we are justifiably pleased with yesterday's attendance and engagement.

“Unfortunately we know that young people do not often share their concerns with adults, and our Ambassador scheme is specifically designed to address this, and make it easier for people to get the help and support they might need to come forward and report hate crime.”

Pupils also took part in interactive workshops run by Bedfordshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and watched a thought-provoking play about Islamophobia.

Hannah Kelly, one of four young actors from Luton-based Next Generation Youth Theatre who performed the play, said: “Theatre is a great way to shine a light on some of these problems. The play was written around the time of the attacks in Paris. We wanted to show what Islam really is – it’s a peaceful religion.”

Councillor Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “We have been delighted to support the week of action because hate crime should not be tolerated in our society.

“That is why we are working with other organisations to raise awareness about hate crime and encourage victims not to suffer in silence.

“Obviously that can be easier said than done, which is why the launch of the new third-party reporting centres, where people can speak out in an environment which may be more comfortable to them.” 

The third-party reporting centres are at:

  • The Disability Resource Centre, Dunstable
  • MIND blmk, Bedford
  • Tokko Youth Space, Luton
  • LGBT Links, Luton
  • Centre For Youth and Development (CYCD), Luton                         

Training workshops with more than 50 partner organisations have been taking place at the different venues with the final one today at the Disability Resource Centre, in Dunstable.

For more information about hate crime and how to report it, visit www.bedfordshire.police.uk/tackling_crime/hate_incidents.aspx

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