Coronation Street is to tackle the issue of hate crime in a hard hitting new storyline.
Corrie bosses will work alongside The Sophie Lancaster Foundation to explore social intolerance and prejudice so often suffered by people from stigmatised minority groups.
In scenes which will air on the soap in May, Seb and Nina will be subjected to a violent assault which has similarities to what happened to Sophie Lancaster in 2007, when she and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were set upon and beaten in a park simply because of the way they looked. As a consequence of the attack, Sophie sadly died from her injuries.
Sophie’s mum, Sylvia, set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation in her daughter’s memory to focus on creating respect for, and understanding of, subcultures in our communities.
A synopsis of the story line reads: "Nina and Seb have fallen head over heels in love in recent weeks, but her Victorian Goth identity has resulted in some prejudiced reactions, not least from Corey Brent, the boyfriend of Nina’s best pal Asha, who has long made his intolerance towards Nina known.
"In the dramatic episodes to be screened in early May the couple are out walking when Corey and a gang of drunken mates including Kelly Neelan, corner and goad the pair.
"As Corey starts hurling abuse, Kelly finds herself egged on by the crowd and slaps Nina. Seb and Nina hurry away as the gang gives chase and they find themselves subject to an unprovoked attack.
"Back on the Street Abi and Kevin’s hen and stag night parties are brought to an abrupt halt when the police arrive with news of the attack. As Abi and Roy rush to the hospital to be with Seb and Nina, the police start the investigation to get to the bottom of which of the teenage gang was responsible for the vicious assault that has left the young couple with horrific injuries.
"The story will draw in the street’s other teens as Summer, Asha and Amy find themselves caught up in the aftermath as potential witnesses in the police inquiry."
Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod said: “The issue of intolerance and hatred towards people from different cultures and subcultures is arguably more relevant now than it’s ever been.
"This incredibly hard-hitting storyline, which centres on a senseless act of violence, will draw in characters from all corners of our narrative universe and will, we hope, leave the audience with a clear message: everyone, regardless of how they look, how they dress or any aspect of how they live their life, should be treated with tolerance and respect.
"The story will run across the rest of the year and beyond, with many twists and turns, and will be heartbreaking and dramatic in equal measure. In the end, the story will see an optimistic outcome emerge from the traumatic attack.”
Dr Sylvia Lancaster OBE, Chief Executive of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, added: "I know first-hand the abuse, harassment and violence that alternative people suffer. Hate crime is usually directed at already stigmatised and minority groups and Sophie was assaulted three times before that final, sustained and brutal attack that took her life - but she never reported the earlier assaults.
"Coronation Street covering this issue means such a huge amount to me. We want alternative people to know that they shouldn’t be putting up with this prejudice and intolerance, and they should report it. We want the wider community to really appreciate the horror of this violence and understand that difference in itself, is not frightening, it just makes us all who we are.
"We will also use this platform to continue raising awareness of Sophie’s case with the police and judiciary to make sure that hate crime against alternative people is recognised and treated with the degree of severity that it deserves.”
Coronation Street airs on Mondays and Wednesdays 7:30PM and 8:30PM and on Fridays at 7:30PM.
You can watch episodes online and catch up via the ITV Hub here.