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.