Demand Justice for Gay Teen Burned to Death at Birthday Party

Target: Crown Prosecution Service

Goal: Appeal the sentencing of Jordan Sheard, who has been sentenced to just three and a half years in prison for killing a gay, disabled teen by setting him on fire at his birthday party

For his 18th birthday, Steven Simpson invited several new acquaintances from college to celebrate. The mood of the party quickly turned sour, however, when several boys began bullying Simpson, forcing him to strip naked, scrawling insults on his skin in lipstick, and spraying him with tanning oil. Jordan Sheard’s final act of flicking a lighter near Simpson’s oil-doused body turned out to be fatal: the teen was quickly engulfed in flames. He died two days later from burns that covered 60 percent of his body. Sheard, who initially fled the scene of the crime, has been sentenced to just three years and six months in prison for his heinous act.

Simpson was gay and had Asperger’s Syndrome, epilepsy, and a speech impediment. He was only the latest victim of vicious homophobic bullying—and odds are he won’t be the last. But the judge who sentenced his attacker asserted that the acts of the partygoers were just “good-natured horseplay”. Describing this obscene hazing and violence as “good-natured” is unthinkable, but such thinking may have contributed to Sheard’s absurdly lenient sentence.

Gay rights activists and disability rights activists have been rallying for the courts to take Simpson’s sad case more seriously. Sheard must receive a sentence that demonstrates that violent, deadly bullying is not acceptable. Urge the Crown Prosecution Service to appeal this sentencing and demand justice for a young life cut short by hate.


Dear Crown Prosecution Service,

Your lawyer Tim Warburton recently prosecuted Jordan Sheard for the unthinkable crime of setting a young, gay, and disabled man on fire. Steven Simpson burned to death because a group of acquaintances thought that viciously harassing him was acceptable. Sheard’s lenient sentence of just three and a half years shows that bullying someone to death is not thought of as a serious crime. If you don’t take a stand for Simpson and others like him, more young lives could be cut short.

As we have seen, bullying is not just an unfortunate side effect of social disparity. It is calculated, and it can kill. Jordan Sheard must receive an appropriate sentence for his heinous crime. I implore you to appeal this case and assert that Simpson’s killing was indeed a hate crime worthy of serious punishment.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Tom Magliery via Flickr

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