Hate crime is alive and well – and sanctioned – in Liverpool. And, it seems, if you want to kick a man senseless, in front of his terrified mother in our city centre, all you need to do is sign up for a tour of duty, and you’ll be able to walk free afterwards.

That’s the sickening message sent out this week, following the trial of two ex- squaddies convicted of an unprovoked, and vicious attack on a man in Cook Street.

Sentencing, Suzanne Goddard QC, told the pair that she was taking into account the ‘good character’ of the two defendants: former Welsh guardsmen Paul Owen, 30, and Benjamin Pridding, 32, and – get this – their service to their country.

Now, forgive us, we’re not wise members of the Queen’s Council – barristers appointed by patent to be one of Her Majesty’s counsel steeped in the country’s laws and values – but we thought our services were engaged in fighting for the freedoms and liberties of others?

Can Ms Goddard see the irony here?

Apparently not. For her, to serve in the armed forces is to get a ‘free pass’ to beat up an innocent fellow citizen of our city so badly that he needed three operations, and was hospitalised for eight days, with a further five months of painful physiotherapy.

His crime? Taking his mother out for a meal on Derby day – just as the soldiers were leaving the pub. Talk about provocation.

“Hey love you should not be walking around with a gay boy,” one of our hero ex-squaddies shouted, before punching and kicking their victim, Thomas Pimlott, to the ground.

Livepool’s recent past has been scarred with sickening incidents like this. Three years ago a gay teen was beaten to death. A trainee policeman suffered horrific head wounds a year later. Earlier this year, a group of Stanley Street DJs and performers were kicked unconscious.

Following a nationwide survey last year, the NUT admitted that ‘homophobic bullying’ was ‘endemic’ in Merseyside, with almost one in three teaching staff working in Wirral, Liverpool and Warrington schools claiming to hear pupils openly using homophobic language on a daily basis, and 15% witnessing a pupil being abused every day just for being gay. Figures that make a mockery of court rulings such as this.

Merseyside police have, on record, admitted to a rise in homophobic attacks in the city – up 40%. A recent survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people found 59 percent had experienced a hate crime in the city. The second highest figure in the country.

This is, clearly, no time to be sending out a signal that hate crime – in whatever form it takes – is something that can be sorted out with a handshake after the fact. No matter what career choice the defendants made – no hero attacks an innocent man in front of his mother.

Suzanne Goddard QC disagrees, claiming that it was ‘highly unlikely’ the two defendents would re-offend when she passed down their suspended sentences.

As new street signs are erected around our ‘gay village’ it’s such a tragedy that Suzanne Goddard has lost her way so hopelessly – and, considering the rise in reported homophobic attacks in the city – dangerously  on this occasion.

This is a stain on the true character of our city. And, we have no doubt, on decent servicemen and women everywhere.

If you think this sentence is unduly lenient and is inconsistent with other hate crimes perpetrated within the city you can write to the Attorney General’s office within 28 days. We have.

  • Maa

    For a city that’s as (relatively) small as Liverpool it’s hugely worrying that this stuff keeps popping up.

  • Glen Ezekiel Meskell

    shocking decision by the QC

  • Scott Russell

    Shameful.

  • Chris Gibson

    Here’s a question: will the new gay village idea keep thugs like this out, or will it attract them? I support the Stanley street quarter btw.

  • Karen Swale

    Vile

  • Sevenstreets

    i don’t think the Gay Village thing will make a difference either way. But it’s good to see the city behind such a venture. Although look how Canal Street went…

  • James William Davies

    I hadn’t picked up on this, what an utter piss take

  • Christopher Madden

    Horrible. Those squaddies demonstrated fascism, pure and simple.

  • Mark

    The lad who was attacked is not gay. You should probably do a bit of fact checking before you incorrectly out someone!

  • SaraNewton

    The point is Mark that they thought that he was gay and abused him verbally and attacked him physically based on their wrong assumption. This is a matter of court record. The fact that you think being identified as gay would be such a terrible thing kind of proves the point that the article is making about how strongly homophobic Merseyside is. There are worse things that could happen, like having seven kinds of bell knocked out of you.

  • Dan Todd

    It’s worrying how much violence there is in Liverpool right now, from gangland shootings and revenge attacks to bar brawls that end with someone’s face being bitten off.

  • Mark

    @SaraNewton I haven’t made any comment about the situation or if it is or isn’t a homophobic hate crime. My only point that it is wrong to talk about someone’s sexuality in a public domain, especially if you get it wrong. The lad who got attacked is a good friend of mine, and isn’t gay. The original, unedited article stated twice his is a gay man. It’s not for you, or me, to decide if being publicly, and incorrectly, outed is a positive or negative thing. Some people mightn’t care and some might take issue with it, either way it’s up to them.

    I’ve said nothing homophobic, and I’ve no idea how you can come to that conclusion.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com/ SevenStreets

    We’ve edited the article to avoid offending anyone. Thanks for pointing it out Mark.

    Sadly in these types of cases, it can still be a homophobic attack regardless of the victim’s sexuality. It’s all about the intent, and this one was disgusting and homophobic.

  • Rob

    Hate hearing about stuff like this. We’re a better city than that.

  • Littoral

    It’s worth noting that both men convicted are from Chester, not Liverpool and the Recorder who lightly sentenced them is Manchester based. Silly generalisation about Liverpool as a city aren’t really very helpful here. The only people from Liverpool involved here are the lad who got bashed and his mother who had to witness it.

    The sentence is obviously too light however.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com/ SevenStreets

    @Littoral What part of this piece constitutes a ‘silly generalisation’? There’s nothing silly nor general about the findings from Merseyside police nor the surveys quoted. That the attackers were from Chester means nothing, I’m afraid – not to the victim, not to the fact that the city is their chosen battleground. Playing location semantics doesn’t help forward any solution. The fact is, it’s our streets – and our friends and neighbours – who are suffering the ‘fallout’.