Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Goth murderer's sentence reduced

Sophie Lancaster and Robert Maltby
Sophie Lancaster was killed as she cradled her boyfriend Robert Maltby

One of the teenage boys who kicked a 20-year-old woman to death because she was dressed as a Goth has won a cut in his minimum term for the murder.

Ryan Herbert, 16, of Bacup, Lancashire, was sentenced to life, serving at least 16 years and three months for killing Sophie Lancaster in August 2007.

The Appeal Court cut the tariff by nine months. Brendan Harris, 16, has failed to have his 18-year minimum term cut.

Miss Lancaster died 13 days after the attack in Stubbylee Park, Bacup.

She was trying to protect her boyfriend Robert Maltby, who survived the attack.

Ryan Herbert (left) and Brendan Harris
Herbert and Harris repeatedly kicked and stamped on Ms Lancaster

At the Court of Appeal in London the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges cut the minimum term to be served by Herbert to 15 years and six months.

They said this was because the sentencing judge at Preston Crown Court did not give enough allowance for his guilty plea.

Three other youths involved with Herbert and Harris in the savage attack on Mr Maltby had their sentence appeals rejected by the three judges.

Sophie's mother, Sylvia Lancaster said: "I'm not happy he's (Herbert) got nine months off his sentence, but it could have been a lot worse.

"I'm relieved the others have all been dismissed."

Lord Judge described the attack as an "appalling crime".

Harris, Herbert, brothers Joseph and Danny Hulme, and Daniel Mallett had kicked art student Mr Maltby into unconsciousness in the park in August 2007.

All five teenagers pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to the attack.

'Sustained and vicious attack'

The Hulme brothers, aged 16 and 18, of Landgate, Whitworth, near Bacup, are each serving a minimum of five years and 10 months.

Mallett, 18, of Rockcliffe Drive, Bacup, is serving four years and four months.

Sentencing the youths at their trial, Judge Anthony Russell QC had described the attacks as "feral thuggery".

The appeals against the sentences he imposed at the crown court had mainly centred on the ages of the teenagers.

(left to right) Joseph Hulme, Danny Hulme and Daniel Mallett
Three other teenagers failed to have their sentences reduced

Dismissing the appeals of four of them, Lord Judge said the appeal of Herbert was being allowed to a "very limited extent".

Lord Judge said the five teenagers "savagely and mercilessly attacked and beat unconscious" Mr Maltby.

"However, with remarkable courage Miss Lancaster rushed to give whatever assistance to him she could, and as he lay prone, she cradled her boyfriend's head in her lap, calling for help and shouting at the appellants to leave him alone," Lord Judge said.

"Herbert and Harris turned their attention to her and she too was subjected to a sustained and vicious attack which involved kicking and stamping until she too in her turn was beaten unconscious."

'Violent murder'

At the trial of the youths, the court heard that Miss Lancaster and Mr Maltby had walked through the park and chatted to some of the teenagers gathered there in what was initially a "good-natured" conversation.

The gang, who had been drinking, turned on the young couple simply because they were Goths and were dressed differently, the jury was told.

Mr Maltby was kicked and beaten and was lying bleeding when the attackers turned on Miss Lancaster. Her head was stamped on repeatedly.

Det Supt Mick Gradwell, of Lancashire Police, said it was one of the most violent murders he had seen.

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