The Attorney General has told the Court of Appeals to review the sentence of a man who was given just 42 months jail for burning a gay teen to death, Gay Star News has learned.
Steven Simpson, who had Asperger’s syndrome, a speech impairment and epilepsy was celebrating his 18th birthday when the incident happened in the early hours of 23 June last year.
As he became more drunk, homophobic insults were scrawled on his arm and stomach and he was encouraged to strip to his underwear and dance.
He was then covered in self-tanning oil and Jordan Sheard, 20, held a cigarette lighter to his groin. The highly flammable liquid caught alight and flames engulfed his body. Sheard fled rather than help Simpson, who died in hospital of 60% burns.
Sheard pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court to 42 months prison.
A spokesman for the Attorney General has now said: ‘Having carefully reviewed this case, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, has decided to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal for review as a possibly unduly lenient sentence.
‘The case will in due course be heard by three Court of Appeal judges who will decide whether or not to increase the sentence.’
After the case was first reported late March, a number of people and organizations including Stonewall and Stop Hate UK wrote to the Attorney General to criticize the sentence.
‘In our opinion the facts of the case quite clearly involve proven demonstrated hostility by Jordan Sheard towards Steven Simpson on the basis of both his sexual orientation and disability,’ hate crime charity Stop Hate UK said in their letter.
‘It appears these aggravating factors were not taken into account when sentencing Jordan Sheard.’
Ben Summerskill, director of Britain’s leading gay rights charity Stonewall, told GSN: ‘The sentence in relation to the reported circumstances did seem disproportionately low.
‘Given that the prosecution council acknowledged that the crime was motivated by bullying based on sexuality and disability, what that would suggest is had it not been a hate-based crime the sentence would have been less than two years [as hate-based crimes can attract double-length sentences] and that seems ridiculously lenient.’
‘We’re delighted that the Attorney General has responded so quickly to our request,’ Summerskill said today. ‘On the face of the available evidence a sentence which means less than two years in prison is entirely inadequate.’
In the Crown Court case, the killing was described by defense lawyer Andrew Smith as a ‘criminally stupid prank that went wrong in a bad way.’