One of Sophie Lancaster’s killers has been deemed “suitable” to be released from prison after 15 years.
Sophie died at the age of 20 after being “savagely and mercilessly attacked” by a gang of teenage boys whilst coming to the aid of her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, when the pair were walking through Stubbylee Park in Bacup during the early hours of 11 August 2007.
The gang lunged at Robert and then struck Sophie as she tried to protect him, leaving Robert in a coma as a result of the attack.
Sophie sadly never recovered, however, and died from her injuries 14 days later.
According to court hearings that followed the horrific attacks, it appeared that the young couple were attacked because they looked and dressed like goths.
Now, one of Sophie’s killers, Ryan Herbert – who was 16 when he was handed a life sentence after admitting to murdering the 20-year-old, and also pleaded guilty to assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent to Robert Maltby – is to be freed from prison after he was given a minimum term of 16 years and three months.
Herbert first had his sentence reduced to 15 years after and appeal, and then had his tariff cut to 14-and-a-half years in 2020 when a High Court judge concluded that he had made “exceptional progress” in jail.
Now, the Parole Board have decided Herbert can be released from prison on licence, 15 years after he took part in the attack.
The Parole Board said they found Herbert had made “significant changes to his life which reflected his remorse, his insight and increased maturity”, and added in a document setting out the decision that: “After considering the circumstances of his offending and examining the evidence for the progress made while in custody, the panel was satisfied that Mr Herbert was suitable for release.”
The document continued: “No concerns about compliance had been identified and Mr Herbert had good working relationships with professional staff.”
Witnesses, including his probation officer, recommended he be released on licence.
Sophie’s mother, Sylvia Lancaster – who launched a foundation in her daughter’s memory to stand against violence and prejudice – said in a statement: “I’m obviously very disappointed in the result of the parole hearing [as] once again, we have a justice system that fails to deliver justice, however much progress people make in prison, they have been given their sentence in recognition of the extent of their crime.
“The judge at the murder trial described the attack on Sophie as “feral”, with the attackers’ behaviour “savage and merciless” [and] her injuries were so severe, the paramedics attending the scene could not facially distinguish if she were male or female.
“How can you bear knowing the reality of the level of violence my daughter was subjected to, and stack that up against reducing the minimum tariff because they have done well in prison? However they have progressed, the minimum justice for the family is them serving the sentence they were given.
“Her attackers may not have been given a life sentence, but I have.”
Featured Image – The Sophie Lancaster Foundation