Steven Simpson, a young man who had Asperger’s Syndrome was killed on his birthday party last year. The Daily Mail reported that Steven was doused in tanning oil and then set alight by a young man called Jordan Sheard, who apparently gate-crashed the party. Steven was rushed to the hospital but died because of severe body burns the day after. Further police investigations found anti-gay messages such as ‘gay boy’ and ‘I love d**k’ were found scribbled across his body. It has also been found that at the time of the party, Steven was not objecting to what the others were doing to him. His lack of understanding of what was going on could be due to his Asperger’s- a mild form of Autism which is characterised (amongst other things) by a significant delay in social understanding and interactions.
The defendant confessed to committing manslaughter and was later sentenced to three and a half years in prison- a sentence considered by many to be way too lenient. Stop Hate UK recently asked the Attorney General to review this case as they feel that a heavier sentence is more fitting to the crime. Their letter stated:
“Our concerns about the sentence imposed upon the defendant stem from the fact that the manslaughter of Steven Simpson does not appear to have been dealt with as a case motivated by hostility in accordance with section 146, Criminal Justice Act 2003.
“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.
“It appears that, contrary to section 146, these aggravating factors were not taken into account when sentencing Jordan Sheard, nor does it seem to have been stated in open court by His Honour Judge Keen that the offence was committed in such circumstances.”
Taken from pinknews.co.uk
It is most unfortunate that these events still happen. Despite the increase in people’s awareness and acceptance towards people of different sexual orientation and disabilities, there are still people who refuse to be educated. Homophobia and abuse directed to disabled people are still wide-spread.
What could have been done?
I’m very curious as to whether Steven has ‘real’ friends and whether they were at the party. If so, what were they doing? Did everyone in the party really think that all of it was just ‘good horseplay’? I feel that if one person voiced out his/ her disagreement to what was happening, he/ she could have prevented Steven’s death. I wonder if these bystanders also deserve to be punished by the law for not doing anything.