What Price Justice?

Following the hate crime storyline on Cononation Street, I wanted to say a few words about working with TV drama and the reality of the justice system for me.

Coronation Street approached the Foundation to talk about Sophie’s murder and wanted to use hate crime against someone from an alternative subculture as the basis of a storyline. They wanted it to be authentic but were mindful of the sensitivities of basing it on a real event. I agreed, as it was a great way to raise awareness of not just what happened to Sophie, but of the violence that is still happening to alternative people, simply because of their identity. It was, and is, a great platform for discussing the issue and raising awareness with a whole new generation.

I was particularly pleased that the character of Nina was allowed to embed in the drama before the attack came. Audiences, many unfamiliar, with alternative people in real life, saw a character and personality and warmed to her. It was a wonderful contrast to the alternative people we normally see in the media – the usual stereotyped depressed person or the frightening or aggressive alternative, so beloved in the media as a cause of moral panic. The overwhelming response to Nina and Seb’s attack from Coronation Street viewers, was disbelief and fury that being different and expressing your own identity in your own way, is enough to trigger hate and violence. If Coronation Street covering this story, encourages people to examine their own views about alternative people or see being alternative in a new light, then that’s an amazing achievement.

Following on from the attack, many viewers were stunned at the court case and the outcome. This is where TV comes in. This story is not Sophie’s story. The writers are basing it on real events but are very much creating their own story. That is completely as it should be. It has been a pleasure to work with the professional team at Corrie. Enjoy the drama, follow the story, but remember, they never set out to recreate Sophie’s case and trial. I know some viewers were commenting on social media about their fury or disbelief at the trial verdict. The reaction to the Coronation Street trial, made me ponder on my own experience. I think in TV, we all like seeing the guilty punished and however heart-breaking a case is, we then feel like justice has been done. Unfortunately, that is not what often happens in real life, or what it was like for me. It felt like the justice system is based on finance, not truth. It seemed geared up to protect perpetrators and not victims. We get emails and phone calls every week to the Foundation, from people who feel the same. To be honest, whatever sentence someone was given – would it ever be enough if they took the life of your daughter? I will always be grateful to Judge Anthony Russell QC, who used his discretion to impose the stiffest sentences he could, in recognising Sophie’s murder as a hate crime. We were so very lucky to have him judge the case. In looking at what is legally seen to constitute a hate crime, it seems that other cases like Sophie’s will have to depend on luck as well.