UK judges have refused to give a tougher sentence to a 20-year-old who burned a gay teenager to death on his 18th birthday.
Jordan Sheard got just three-and-a-half years in prison for the killing of the Steven Simpson, who had Asperger’s syndrome, a speech impairment and epilepsy.
But today (10 July) the Court of Appeal decided not to intervene in the sentence.
Openly gay Simpson was a sociable teenager with a wide circle of friends.
He was celebrating his 18th birthday with them in Cudworth, Yorkshire, north east England on 22 June when the incident happened.
As he became more drunk, he was encouraged to strip to his underwear and dance.
Sheard, 20, is understood to have mocked the teen’s sexuality and homophobic insults were scrawled on Simpson’s arm and stomach.
Simpson was then covered in self-tanning oil and Sheard held a cigarette lighter to his groin. The highly flammable liquid caught alight and flames engulfed his body.
Sheard and others fled rather than help Simpson. A neighbor called the emergency services but he died in hospital of 60% burns the next day.
Sheard pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court to 42 months prison.
Leading UK gay campaign organization Stonewall and hate crime charity Stop Hate UK both complained about the sentence.
Stonewall said it seemed ‘ridiculously lenient’ while Stop Hate UK accused Sheard of ‘gratuitous violence’ and showing ‘elements of sadism’ in the attack. They believed it was ‘bullying based on sexuality and disability’.
But Sheard claimed he didn’t mean to harm Simpson and his actions were because he was drunk.
The Attorney General conceded he had admitted the attack, was remorseful and had been of good character.
The Court of Appeal decided not to alter the sentence saying: ‘We are wary of going further. We decline to interfere with the sentence of three-and-a-half years detention in a young offender institution.’
Stonewall told GSN they are ‘disappointed’ with today’s decision.