Update On RMT TUC Motion Regarding Sentencing Of Murderer Of Steven Simpson

The Trades Union Congress Disability Conference carried an emergency motion submitted by RMT calling for a review of the sentence given to Jordan Sheard for the killing of Steven Simpson, on grounds that the attack should have been treated as disability and homophobic hate crime (as well as unacceptable comments from the judge).

Peter Purton, TUC staff member responsible for disability and LGBT issues, prepared a letter that was sent to the Attorney General, signed by the TUC General Secretary, the very next day. The TUC received a prompt reply which first told us we were out of time – appeals against sentences have to be lodged within 30 days of the court hearing (which was on 21 March), but that because others had already written (i.e. through the Disability Hate Crime Network) the case had been referred to the Court of Appeal to consider whether the sentence had been “unduly lenient”.

That appeal was heard on 6 June and judgement was reserved – that is, the judges are thinking about it.
So far so good, and unusually fast. BUT, now for the bad news. According to John Pring’s report, it appears that the issue of this being a disability hate crime was not argued by the crown.

Nothing further will be stated or known until we get the judgement, and we'll share that information as it becomes available.

  • Read about the RMT motion to the TUC Disability Conference here.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady. Photo by Sarah Turton

TUC Letter To Attorney General's Office

Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP
Attorney General
20 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0NF

24 May 2013
Dear Mr Grieve,

Killing of Steven Simpson
I am writing to ask that the sentence imposed on the killer of Steven Simpson at Sheffield Crown Court on 21 March 2013 be urgently reviewed, and that you examine the reported statements made by the judge in the case, HH Judge Keen QC, with a view to taking appropriate steps to prevent such an approach being adopted again.

Trade union disabled members, meeting in their conference this week, have asked me to take up this issue with you. The TUC has been working with government and with community campaigners to challenge hate crimes based on the characteristics of the victim for many years now. Real progress has been made in ensuring that the police and the justice system pay due regard to the special characteristics of hate crime, and that the additional punishment provided for in section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is invoked. It was therefore shocking to read that such an appalling attack could be described by the judge as “horseplay gone too far”, when there was evidence that the assault had been motivated by the fact that Steven was gay and autistic.

The TUC shares with the government a commitment to crack down hard on crimes motivated by hatred. Judge Keen’s comments, and the sentence he imposed, undermine progress being made to tackle such crimes. I seek your assurance that a review will increase the sentence on Jordan Sheard to one fitting the horror of this crime, that the Judge’s inappropriate comments will be overturned and that he not be appointed to preside over any similar cases.

Yours sincerely

Frances O'Grady
General Secretary

Letter in response From Attorney General's Office To The TUC

Dear Ms O’Grady

Thank you for your letter to the Attorney General's Office regarding the sentence imposed on Jordan Sheard

As you may know, the Law Officers (the Attorney General and Solicitor General) have the power, under section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, to refer to the Court of Appeal certain sentences passed in the Crown Court which appear to them to be unduly lenient. This power is subject to strict limitations and must be exercised within 28 days of sentence being passed. This is a deadline which cannot be extended. Jordan Sheard was sentenced on 22 March 2013 which means that the time limit to make a referral expired on 19 April 2013 and therefore it is now no longer possible for either of the Law Officers to refer this sentence to the Court of Appeal for review.

However this case was brought to our attention before the deadline and the after careful consideration the Attorney General decided to refer this case to the Court of Appeal as a possibly unduly lenient sentence.

The case will be heard by three Court of Appeal Judges on Thursday 6 June who will decide whether or not to increase the sentence.

Yours sincerely

James Ross
Correspondence Unit