The mother of a young woman “murdered for being a goth” said court sentences should be dictated by the crime instead of the age of the offender.
Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter Sophie died in a vicious attack in 2007, hit out after a Fife teenager escaped a jail sentence for a similar attack.
The 16-year-old, who cannot be named due to her age, was placed on a one-year supervision order and ordered to pay £250 compensation to her victim.
She had previously admitted stamping on her victim’s head outside a Fife secondary school on May 17.
Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard she had made threatening posts on social media before the attack, in which she stated “I’ll kick your gothy face’ and ‘I’ll stab f*** out of you”.
Sheriff Alastair Brown told her she could easily have killed her victim.
He said her youth had saved her from a prison sentence.
“For stamping on someone’s head I would ordinarily be imposing a long prison sentence of several years.
“I say that so you understand and never do anything like this again.
“You are 16 and the law is that I have to place your welfare at the heart of this sentence.”
Parallels to 2007 murder
The case has shocking parallels to the attack on Sophie Lancaster in Bacup, Lancashire, on August 11 2007.
She had her head repeatedly stamped on after she and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were set upon as they walked through a park.
Their injuries were so bad paramedics attending the scene were initially unable to tell which of them was male and which was female.
Sophie died of her injuries 13 days later.
Murderers Ryan Herbert, 16, and Brendan Harris, 15, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Three other male teenagers were convicted of grievous bodily harm.
Sylvie set up the hate-crime tackling Sophie Lancaster Foundation in the wake of her daughter’s death.
Using internet to spread hate
Noting the similarity in age of her daughter’s killers to the Fife attacker, Sylvia said the teenager responsible was lucky not to be facing a murder charge.
She said: “I can understand what they are saying (about the age of the offender) but in reality it’s about the consequences.
“There’s two big issues there – the fact she attacked somebody and kicked them in the head, where she was fortunate they weren’t killed and the fact she was using the internet to spread hate.
“I think it’s slightly sad they didn’t give her slightly more – perhaps two years supervision. They have to learn.
“Sixteen is quite young and you can’t put an old head on young shoulders but they have to be taught a lesson.
“I was somewhat concerned at the viciousness and the hate the perpetrator seemed to think was perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable.
“She doesn’t know how lucky she is because one kick can kill somebody.”
Crime, not age, should matter
She said: “Look at the crime, rather than the age.
“Sometimes we think young people are a little bit more naïve than they actually are.
“You’re not telling me that at 16 someone doesn’t know right from wrong.
“ I think there is too much emphasis on what the perpetrator needs rather than the victim.”
Sylvia also expressed disappointment attacks on those who dress differently are still happening 14 years after Sophie’s death.
“It’s ridiculous that in this day and age people cannot chose to be who they are and show that to other people without having abuse or violence perpetrated against them.
“I don’t think people realise how prevalent it is.
“It doesn’t surprise me that it’s still going on – we work with goths and other people and we are told every week that somebody’s been attacked for the way they look.
“I’m very saddened by it.”
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation seeks to tackle prejudice and hatred.
“We go into schools and educate young people about tolerance and acceptance and a celebration of difference.
“Because of covid we’ve had a bit of a nightmare because schools have been shut.
“Our usual funding streams haven’t been available to us – we usually go into the goth festivals but we haven’t been able to do that.
“But we’ve now developed resources in the internet and we’ve been going into schools on Zoom.
“It’s been a brilliant tool but I like to be more personal. It has more effect.”