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Open Letter To Keir Starmer QC Regarding Jordan Sheard Sentence

March 26, 2013

Matthew Smith has written this open letter to Keir Starmer QC regarding the sentence handed down to Jordan Sheard for the killing of Steven Simpson.


If you would like to join us both in signing the letter, you can do so here.

Open letter


to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC


Dear Mr Starmer,


We are writing to express our concern regarding the lenient sentence given to Jordan Sheard for his role in the death of Steven Simpson, who died of burns after being set on fire by Sheard and others at his 18th birthday party last June. News reports state that Simpson had held a birthday party but had to search for people to attend; those who did made him strip to his underwear, scrawled homophobic slogans on his body, then doused him with tanning oil before Sheard, egged on by other partygoers to “light it, see what it does”, set light to his groin area, causing him to catch fire, and after a brief attempt to help, fled the scene.


We are concerned that reports say that Simpson appeared to have been enjoying the situation. He had Asperger’s syndrome, a speech impairment and epilepsy. In previous reports of deaths of people with learning disabilities at the hands of groups of bullies who masqueraded as friends, it was reported that the victims invited the perpetrators into their homes and did not extricate themselves from the abusive situation because they preferred their tormentors’ company to nobody’s. Most gay men would not want people using the slogans quoted near them, let alone writing them on their bodies; people with Asperger’s syndrome often find close physical contact difficult. Yet we are expected to believe he was ‘enjoying’ this attention.


We urge you to appeal this sentence as it seems unduly lenient for a death incurred during what may have been a malicious attack, disguised as friendly ‘horseplay’, and one which has sexual overtones. It is a mystery that he was not charged with murder, since pouring what one believes to be an accelerant over somebody’s almost-naked body and then igniting it is known to cause burns, and this surely qualifies as occasioning grievous bodily harm with intent, and doing this and causing someone’s death is murder, even if murder is not intended. Setting light to someone’s groin area also surely qualifies as an indecent assault. A sentence of three and a half years (likely to mean less than two) is derisory for the crime of causing a vulnerable man what must have been a very painful death, and gives the impression that such people’s lives are worth little. We urge that it be appealed and that a sentence of at least double the original sentence be sought.



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