Teenage murderer who killed Sophie Lancaster because she was a goth has prison sentence cut

Yahoo News UK

A murderer who killed a 20-year-old woman because she was dressed as a goth has had his minimum jail sentence reduced by a year.

Ryan Herbert, 28, was jailed for life in 2008 when he was 16 years old for the murder of Sophie Lancaster in a park in Bacup, Lancashire, the previous year.

Ms Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were attacked in Stubbylee Park because they were goths.

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Ryan Herbert murdered Sophie Lancaster in 2007 (PA)
Ryan Herbert murdered Sophie Lancaster in 2007 (PA)

She was kicked to death by Herbert and his friend Brendan Harris while she cradled her boyfriend’s head in her lap. Ms Lancaster didn’t regain consciousness and died in hospital 14 days later.

Herbert also admitted assault causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr Maltby and was given a minimum term of 16 years and three months, which was later reduced to 15-and-a-half years on appeal.

Sophie Lancaster, 20, was attacked because she was a goth (PA)
Sophie Lancaster, 20, was attacked because she was a goth (PA)

Herbert, from Bacup, had his tariff cut to 14-and-a-half years on Monday, as a High Court judge concluded he has made "exceptional progress" in jail.

A previous attempt by Herbert to have his minimum term reduced was rejected in 2016.

But Mr Justice William Davis said evidence from professionals at HMP Warren Hill, Suffolk, where Herbert has been since May 2017, indicates he has significantly improved since the earlier review.

The judge said he also received a letter from the directors of the Learning Together programme, based at the University of Cambridge, where Herbert has taken a law course which involves inmates and university students working together.

He said Herbert has taken on a mentoring role, has designed and delivered new sessions as part of the course, and was described in the letter as "one of the most reliable, sensitive and conscientious students" on the programme.

Mourners walk alongside the coffin of Sophie Lancaster at her funeral in Whitworth, Lancashire (PA)
Mourners walk alongside the coffin of Sophie Lancaster at her funeral in Whitworth, Lancashire (PA)

The judge said: "The way in which Herbert has developed since his arrival at HMP Warren Hill some two-and-a-half years ago does amount to exceptional progress.

"In 2008, Herbert was a young person whose only contribution to education was to disrupt and who saw no purpose in learning.

"In 2020, he is someone who has a profound interest in his own education and the education of others."

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The decision means Herbert will now be eligible to apply for parole in February 2022 – although he will not be released until the Parole Board is satisfied he no longer poses a danger to the public.

Harris, who was found guilty of Ms Lancaster's murder at Preston Crown Court in March 2008 and admitted the attack on Mr Maltby, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 18 years.

A judge who carried out a review of his tariff in January concluded he had not made enough progress to have his sentence reduced.

Ms Lancaster's mother, Sylvia Lancaster, said she was angry at the court's decision to reduce Herbert’s sentence.

Sylvia Lancaster, mother of murdered Sophie, outside Preston Crown Court in 2008 (PA)
Sylvia Lancaster, mother of murdered Sophie, outside Preston Crown Court in 2008 (PA)

She said: "I'm glad (Herbert) is doing well in prison but what is the point of a judge handing out a sentence only to have that overturned – it just doesn't make sense."

Ms Lancaster’s mother said the decision to reduce Herbert's sentence for a second time had come as a surprise, particularly after Harris's bid to have his tariff reduced was rejected.

"It's never ending, you just never know when another appeal is going to crop up," she said.

Herbert and Harris, then aged 15, and four other teenage boys "savagely and mercilessly attacked" Mr Maltby in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, during the early hours of 11 August 11 2007.

Gap-year student Ms Lancaster rushed to help her boyfriend as he lay unconscious and shouted at his attackers to leave him alone.

Herbert and Harris then turned on her, subjecting her to a "sustained and vicious attack" which involved her head being kicked and stamped on until she too lost consciousness.

Mr Justice William Davis said it appeared the couple were attacked because they "looked and dressed differently”.

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