New twist after killer jailed over park murder of woman dressed as 'goth'

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

Ms Lancaster and her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, were "savagely and mercilessly attacked" in Stubbylee Park – in Bacup, Lancashire – during the early hours of August 11, 2007 because they were dressed as ‘goths’.

The 20-year-old woman was kicked to death by Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris, while she cradled her boyfriend’s head in her lap as he lay unconscious.

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

Sophie Lancaster (pictured) was attacked and later died because of the way she was dressed. Source: AAP

Ms Lancaster didn’t regain consciousness and died in hospital 14 days later.

A court heard it appeared the couple were attacked because they "looked and dressed differently”.

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.

Herbert had his tariff cut to 14-and-a-half years on Monday (local time) as a High Court judge concluded he had made "exceptional progress" in jail.

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

Ryan Herbert (left) and Brendan Harris (right) were jailed in 2008 when he was 16 years old for the murder of Sophie Lancaster. Source: Lancashire Police

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 Lancashire. Source: PA

"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," the judge said.

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 said she was angry at the court's decision to reduce Herbert’s sentence. Source: PA

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

"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,” she said.

Sylvia 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.

– Yahoo News UK

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