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Sophie Lancaster's killer tries to get prison sentence cut saying he has made good progress; Ryan Herbert is described at the appeal as a 'positive young man' who has started an Open University degree course.

Byline: accrington

A teen killer who battered a young woman to death because she was a Goth has tried to get his jail term cut - because he has made good progress over the last few years.

Ryan Herbert, now 24, was only 15 when he and a gang of friends set upon 21-year-old Robert Maltby in Stubbylee Park in Bacup in August 2007.

He was kicked and beaten unconscious and, when his girlfriend Sophie Lancaster stepped in to help, she was attacked too.

The 20-year-old gap-year student was kicked and stamped on and died from her injuries 12 days later.

Herbert, formerly of Rossendale Place, Bacup, admitted the murder at Preston Crown Court in 2008 and was ultimately sentenced to a minimum of 15-and-a-half years.

His case reached the High Court, where his lawyers claimed the progress he has made in recent years justified a cut in his term.

But after a review of the case, Mr Justice Langstaff said nothing he had done would justify an earlier chance of release.

Herbert had done only what was expected of all life prisoners, he said in his judgment.

The attack on Miss Lancaster and Mr Maltby had been without warning or provocation, following a good-natured conversation between the couple and some youths.

Mr Maltby was left unable to defend himself and Miss Lancaster had gone to his aid, cradling his head and begging the youths to stop.

Herbert and another then attacked her, stamping on her head and causing her to lose consciousness.

"So severe was the attack and the injuries of the victims that it was not immediately possible for ambulance personnel to tell which sex either was," the judge said.

"One of the disturbing features of the attack is that the group of assailants immediately afterwards behaved as if they were proud of what they had done, almost boasting of it."

The couple had been attacked simply because they were Goths, the judge said.

Herbert initially behaved badly after he was locked up, getting involved in fights and even attacking staff.

However, after 2012, he had started to show signs of change, said the judge.

He was described as a "positive young man" who was a hard-worker with a full-time job in the institution.

He had taken GCSEs in maths and business studies and started the first year of an Open University degree on social sciences.

Arguing for a cut in his minimum term, his lawyers argued that the change in his behaviour and attitude was "unexpected and substantial progress".

But the judge said staff who had dealt with him did not consider that his progress was any better than would be expected of any other lifer at that stage in their sentence.

"There is much to be said to his credit," he continued.

"The question is whether overall this amounts to 'exceptional and unforeseen progress'.

"The reports from those who know him best and can best provide objective assessments of his progress when compared to others agree that the progress does not exceed that which is to be expected.

"The number of courses completed is a sign of such progress, but take matters little further.

"Having reviewed the term, in the light of such development and progress as there has been, I have ultimately concluded that the tariff should remain as originally set."

Herbert will only be released after serving his minimum term if the Parole Board is sure he is not a serious danger to the public.
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Publication:Accrington Observer (Chadderton, England)
Date:Feb 7, 2019
Words:580
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