Police team up with Falcons to tackle hate crime

24 Nov 2016 10:41 AM

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Police in Newcastle are teaming up with the region's top rugby union club to tackle hate crime.

Northumbria police and Newcastle Falcons rugby club have joined forces to raise awareness around tackling hate crime, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

Both organisations feel strongly about the cause and are coming together with other partner agencies to get the message out to the public that 'being you is not a crime' and that hate crime has no place in sport, either on or off the field.

In a rainbow coloured show of support, a number of Falcons players will take to the field against Northampton Saints on Friday, November 25, wearing rainbow coloured laces in their boots.

Not to be outdone, 15 police officers working shifts that day across Newcastle and Gateshead will also lace up their boots using the multicoloured laces and show their support.

'Being you is not a crime, targeting you is' is Northumbria Police's hate crime campaign that was launched in 2013 with the aim of raising awareness around what hate crime is, the work that police and partners do to tackle it and the support that is out there for people who have experienced hate crime.

A crime is considered to be a hate crime if someone has been targeted because of a protected characteristic, these include: race, faith, religion, disability, gender identity, age or sexual orientation.

Anyone can report a hate crime – victims, families, carers or someone unrelated to a victim who has been witness.

The rainbow laces are the idea of Stonewall UK following their research suggesting that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia remains a problem at all levels of sport.

Stonewall realises that most sport fans and players do welcome and accept lesbian, gay, bi and trans teammates and fans and so the rainbow laces are therefore for everyone to come together in a sign of solidarity to send a united positive message that LGBT people are welcome in sport and across wider society.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Vera Baird QC, said: "By wearing these rainbow laces we’re all coming together to highlight the importance of treating everyone with respect and showing our LGB&T+ communities here in Northumbria that we take their concerns very seriously and are committed to tackling action against any form of hate crime committed against them.  Everybody has the right to go about their daily business without the fear of hatred and abuse and anyone who experiences otherwise should report it to the police without hesitation  - help is at hand."

Northumbria Police Chief Inspector Steve Hails said: "We are delighted that the Falcons are joining us in promoting this fantastic campaign and the rainbow laces initiative. It's great to see a club of their stature recognising the importance of tackling hate crime and joining us in trying to get our messages out to the public.

"It will be fantastic seeing the players take to a packed out stadium wearing the laces and giving us their support. Even if one person in the crowd gets the message then it will all be worth it and it's a step in the right direction for us.

"Tackling hate crime is a priority for the force and it's something that everyone needs to be aware of as we all have a sexual orientation and gender identity and we have the right for this to be respected.

"'Being you is not a crime' is about all aspects of hate crime but this initiative with the rainbow laces is focusing on hate crimes targeting sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

"Hate crime, of any kind, will not be tolerated. People should be free to be themselves and express themselves however they wish and if anyone feels that they are being targeted because of who they are then please contact us, speak to us, and we will help.

Mick Hogan, managing director of Newcastle Falcons, said: "Rugby always prides itself on being an inclusive sport, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to raise further awareness of a message which we fully endorse."

Rebecca Stinson, Head of Trans Inclusion at Stonewall, said: "ICM research shows us that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still a regular occurrence. It is prevalent in all sports but we know that most football fans have witnessed anti-LGBT language or behaviour even though 91% would be proud or neutral to their favourite player coming out.

"A big concern is that most fans don’t think of anti-LGBT language as anything other than banter, or that it has no impact. The point of the Rainbow Laces campaign is to demonstrate that it is not just ‘banter’ and that, in fact, it has very serious consequences. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are not acceptable when it comes to any sport, and it is great to see Northumbria Police joining forces with the Newcastle Falcons to tackle this.

"Stonewall is committed to making sport everyone’s game and with partnerships like this it is hoped we will see real change."

The initiative has the full backing and support of the Northumbria Police LGBT Network. You can follow the LGBT Network on Twitter @NPLGBT