Killer who murdered Goth teenager has his minimum jail term reduced

One of the killers who beat Sophie Lancaster to death for being a Goth as she cradled her boyfriend’s head has his minimum jail term reduced for ‘exceptional progress’

  • Ryan Herbert attacked and murdered Goth Sophie Lancaster in August 2007
  • He was handed a life sentence after admitting the murder 13 years ago
  • Now Herbert, 28, has had his jail term reduced for ‘exceptional progress’  

One of the vicious teenage killers who beat student Sophie Lancaster to death for being a Goth as she cradled her boyfriend’s head has had his minimum jail term reduced for ‘exceptional progress’ by a High Court judge today.  

Ryan Herbert was just 16 when he was handed a life sentence after admitting he murdered the 20-year-old in a violent and unprovoked gang attack 13 years ago.

The thug had also admitted causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Robert Maltby, Ms Lancaster’s boyfriend, and was given a minimum term of 16 years. 

Now 28-year-old Herbert, whose sentence was extended seven years ago by four months after battering a nurse in a psychiatric ward, has had his tariff reduced from 15- to -14-and-a-half years by a High Court judge today. 

Ryan Herbert (pictured, 2008) won a reduction in his sentence at the Court of Appeal today, after a High Court judge cited ‘exceptional progress’ in his behaviour

Mr Justice William Davis said that Herbert had made ‘exceptional progress’ in prison, citing evidence provided by staff at HMP Warren Hill, Suffolk. 

The judge concluded that Herbert’s behaviour since his earlier, failed attempt to reduce his term in 2018 had significantly improved. 

His decision now means that Herbert can apply for parole in February 2022, on condition that the Parole Board is satisfied that he poses no threat to the public. 

Herbert and five other teenage boys including Brendan Harris ‘savagely and mercilessly attacked’ Mr Maltby in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, in August 2007.

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

The gang 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.

Ms Lancaster never regained consciousness and died in hospital 14 days later. 

Sophie Lancaster (pictured, undated) was ruthlessly murdered by a gang of teenagers as she held her boyfriend’s head in her arms for the way she dressed

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

However, Judge Davis today said that Herbert, who had told two people shortly after the attack that there were ‘two moshers nearly dead’ and had battered a nurse at a psychiatric ward in 2013, had made ‘exceptional progress’ in jail.   

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

He added: ‘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.

‘The way in which he is described by the senior staff at that establishment goes significantly beyond what would be expected of any inmate making good progress.

‘The material from the Learning Together programme shows extraordinary progress, even from the point reached by Herbert at the time of the review conducted.  

‘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.’ 

Sophie Lancaster: The girl murdered for looking like a Goth 

Pictured in hospital after she was attacked, Sophie Lancaster died 13 days later

Sophie Lancaster was murdered aged 20 in 2007 by a number of teenage boys who attacked her and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, then 21, while they walked through Stubbylee Park, Lancashire, on August 11.

Police believe the attack was linked to the couple wearing gothic clothes.

A 15-year-old witness told police: ‘They were running over and just kicking her in the head, and jumping up and down on her head.’

Police said it was ‘a sustained attack during the course of which the pair received serious head injuries and their faces were so swollen we could not ascertain which one was female and which one was male’. Robert also fell into a coma before gradually recovering. He has no memory of the attack. 

Witnesses claimed the attackers celebrated afterwards, boasting: ‘There’s two moshers nearly dead up – you wanna see them – they’re a right mess.’

Sophie went into a coma and died 13 days after the attack due to severe head injuries. She was placed on life support, which hospital staff terminated after determining she would never regain consciousness. 

As the trial against the accused opened on March 10, 2008, the prosecution told the hearing: ‘Sophie and Robert were singled out not for anything they had said or done, but because they looked and dressed differently.’

Sophie’s mother Sylvia, who later founded the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, said: ‘The thing that makes me most angry is that it is seen as an isolated incident, maybe the seriousness of what happened to Sophie is isolated, but attacks are far from isolated. Just because you follow a different culture you are targeted; you are seen as easy pickings.’

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation aims to challenge prejudice towards people from alternative subcultures and campaigns to have the UK Hate Crime legislation extended to include such individuals.

 

 

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