England’s Attorney General has agreed to review a three year jail sentence handed down to a young man for burning an 18-year-old disabled gay teen to death.
Set alight: Steven Simpson
Steven Simpson, who was autistic and had epilepsy and a speech impairment, celebrated his 18th birthday with a party on 23 June last year, but the event turned into a nightmare.
His friends got him increasingly drunk and convinced him to strip down to his underwear. They also wrote homophobic insults on his body and covered him in tanning oil.
Jordan Sheard (20) then held a cigarette lighter to Simpson’s groin, causing the oil to catch fire and engulfing the teen in a ball of flames. He later died with 60% burns on his body.
Sheard, who fled the scene instead of helping to put out the fire, at first claimed that Simpson had set himself alight and later said that the incident was a prank gone awry.
Last week, he was sentenced to 42 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Activists reacted with anger at the sentence and have demanded that it be reviewed.
Stop Hate UK was among a number of groups who wrote to the Attorney General for England and Wales, Dominic Grieve, on the matter, saying that “the sentence was unduly lenient in the circumstances”.
The organisation argued that Simpson’s killing did not appear to have been dealt with as being motivated by hostility in accordance with section 146, Criminal Justice Act 2003.
This section of the act provides for sentences to be increased in those cases aggravated by the victim’s disability or sexual orientation.
“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,” said Stop Hate UK.
“We are of the view that the offence was one of deliberate and gratuitous violence and that the conduct of Jordan Sheard included elements of sadism towards and the humiliation and degradation of Steven Simpson. Significant mitigating factors justifying such a short custodial sentence are glaringly absent.
“A custodial sentence of three years and six months for the manslaughter of Steven Simpson does not reflect the true gravity of the offence committed by Jordan Sheard. We therefore request that this case is referred to the Court of Appeal for consideration of the sentence imposed as unduly lenient,” urged the group.
The Attorney General’s office confirmed to Gay Star News that it had received a number of complaints about the sentence and that it has begun the process of reviewing the matter.