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Steven's death should serve as a reminder of what our LGBTQ and disabled youth face today.

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rose Steven Simpson

June 22, 1994
June 24, 2012

Steven's death is a shocking reminder of what people can do when motivated by hatred

Steven Simpson

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Ben Summerskill of gay rights group Stonewall said: "Steven's death is a shocking reminder of what people can do when motivated by hatred. The leniency with which the killer has been treated is disturbing."

And Carol Povey of the National Autistic Society added: "There is a long way to go before we see parity in the justice system for disabled victims of crime."

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.

This was clearly a hate crime. Simpson was being taunted for his sexuality and his disability. He was devalued so much in the eyes of those involved that they thought setting him on fire was somehow acceptable. How Judge Roger Keen can dismiss this so flippantly as "horseplay" is beyond me. He is re-enforcing the same notions that lead to Steven's death: that homophobic bullying is fun, rather than a crime against LGBTQ people, that it is okay to mock or take advantage of someone's disability rather than looking out for them and treating them with respect, that setting someone on fire and burning them to death is "a joke too far" rather than one of the inevitable consequences of the way we still treat people like Steven in our society.

It makes me sick to the stomach to think someone so young has been killed because he was different - and the frightening fact is that could have been any one of us that lives with a disability or who is LGBTQ. Many have commented on the lenient sentencing of Steven's killer. However, I think this misses the point. The point here is that the criminal justice system is complicit in the oppression of LGBTQ people and disabled people when it makes comments like those of Judge Keen's. It is churning out the very same ideas that lead to hate crime.

It is not a joke, funny or horseplay to treat someone in the way Steven was and we should not condone it as such. If we do condone this behaviour we are sending out the message that LGBTQ people and disabled people are fair game to be bullied and preyed upon. We are sending out the message that it's okay for other young people to do what was done to Steven. It appears it is all okay with Judge Keen, just as long as you don't kill someone.

But the point is that the way Steven was killed was precisely a result of how he was treated. If he had just been treated like any other young person, with a bit of decency or respect, it would never have happened.

This is the message that Sheffield Crown Court should have put out. We should condemn Judge Keen's remarks, call for him to make an apology and call for Sheffield Crown Court to recognise the daily battle people like Steven face because of their sexuality and their disability.

Steven's death should serve as a reminder of what our LGBTQ and disabled youth face today.

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Tributes Steven had thrown the party at his upstairs red-brick maisonette to celebrate his 18th birthday on a Friday night, not knowing that it would be his last day on this earth.

At his 18th birthday party his life was destroyed.

Floral tributes were yesterday seen outside the council flat, which still had glittery streamers from party poppers in the garden and "18 today" written on a window.

A tribute on one bouquet of flowers read: "Steven, may you lay at rest in no pain, love Stacey, Noah and the boys."

Hundreds of tributes have been left to the youngster on Facebook. Family friend Jayne Firth wrote: 'My heart is breaking... I will never forget your smiling face... fly high sweetheart, may you rest in peace.'

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Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "This is a shocking, violent abuse of a vulnerable young disabled gay man.
"The sentence is outrageously lenient for this protracted series of homophobic insults, which culminated in Steven's death."
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality charity Stonewall, said: "The leniency with which the killer has been treated is disturbing."
And Carol Povey, director of the Centre for Autism at The National Autistic Society, said: "It is vital disability hate crimes are punished with the same severity as other hate crimes."
The Crown Prosecution Service said it had wanted to prosecute the tragedy as a hate crime - but added: "The judge did not agree and sentenced accordingly."

Steven Simpson's death is both a lesson and a tragedy. The human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, is absolutely right in calling the sentence "outrageously lenient." Ben Summerskill OBE, speaking on behalf of the gay rights' pressure group Stonewall, remarked that "the leniency with which the killer has been treated is disturbing." Carol Povey, director for the Centre for Autism, added, "It is vital [that] disability hate crimes are punished with the same severity as other hate crimes." The Crown Prosecution Services had wanted to try the case as a hate crime, but the judge would not allow it. After all, manipulating a vulnerable youth to perform like a circus freak for your amusement before you set him on fire is just "good-natured horseplay."

But perhaps the best assessment of the chain of events that led to Steven Simpson's death came from Tom Warburton, the prosecuting lawyer: "This was a cruel case of bullying based on Steven's sexuality and disability.

Had the horseplay ended there we may have had a different story to tell today. Sadly it didn't. While we accept Jordan did not intend to kill Steven, his actions did lead to his death."

It would be equally possible to focus solely on the actions of Jordan Sheard who, having set fire to someone, ran away rather than try to help him and then tried to save his own hide by trying to foist all the blame for the fire onto the dying Steven. But focusing only on victim and perpetrator is a view that leaves out the audience.

Jordan Sheard may not have intended to kill Steven Simpson, but he certainly had no qualms about psychologically and physically abusing him. And, as he did so, his work was aided by a dozen helping hands, a dozen chanting voices, a dozen hyena laughs, loud, forced, competitive; others at the party did not step in until it was far, far too late. They are not guilty of a legal crime, but they are complicit in a moral one. They stood by; they let it happen. The old (and possibly apocryphal) statement attributed to Edmund Burke when he heard of the execution of Marie-Antoinette, that for evil to flourish it is necessary only for good men to do nothing, is true of all events, great and small, in history. If we do nothing to stop an injustice, we are complicit in it. If we allow injustices like Steven Simpson's, we are not so very far removed from the chanting crowds of Victor Hugo's novels. Or the Baroness Orczy's, who described jeering crowds as "human, only in name."

Jordan Sheard deserved much, much longer than forty months in jail. He killed that boy and he certainly intended to harm him. To suggest that this was all horseplay that had gone wrong is tantamount to saying that attacks on the vulnerable, for whatever reason, are excusable under certain circumstances.

Jordan Sheard and his cohorts asked the British justice system to say that they did not kill Steven Simpson - that what happened had been the result of a chain reaction of unlucky happenstance. By handing down a sentence as lenient as forty months, Judge Roger Keen agreed with them. He is saying that what happened to Steven Simpson was an accident that resulted in a needless death, not a process of deliberate cruelty- the kind that always carries with it the risks of a terrible outcome. This sentence says that the parading of Steven Simpson as a freak in the hour before his death, either because of his sexuality or his disability, was nothing more than good-natured horseplay that resulted in something unforeseeable. Judge Roger Keen implicitly sent a message that the law will not do enough to protect the vulnerable

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."

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Source:
From various newspapers' articles

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This is a shocking, violent abuse of a vulnerable young disabled gay man

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