In 2008, Ryan Herbert pleaded guilty to the murder of Sophie Lancaster after a brutal beating took place the year prior. Now, 15 years after being sentenced for the crime, Herbert is free. The case garnered plenty of media attention and went on to inspire plays, films and books, as Herbert was one of five teens who attacked Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby in a park, allegedly because they were dressed in goth attire.

The initial incident occurred on Aug. 11, 2007 with Lancaster and her boyfriend being confronted by the youths while walking through Stubbylee Park in Bacup, Rossendale, Lancashire. They first attacked Maltby, knocking him out, and as Lancaster cradled her boyfriend and plead for the attack to stop the teens then proceeded to kick her repeatedly.

Police reported that upon arriving at the scene, they found the pair were the victims of "a sustained attack during the course of which the pair received serious head injuries and their faces were so swollen we could not ascertain which one was female and which one was male."

Lancaster went into a coma, never regained consciousness and was taken off life support on Aug. 24, 13 days after the attack. Maltby's injuries initially left him in a coma with internal bleeding, but he eventually recovered, albeit losing memory of the time leading up to and during the attack.

Witnesses also claimed the teens gloated to passers by afterward, with Herbert boasting, "There's two moshers nearly dead up Bacup Park. You want to see them, they are a right mess."

The five teenage boys were arrested and charged with murder. Eventually Ryan Herbert, who was 16 at the time, and Brendan Harris, were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison, but the terms also came with a minimum amount of time that could be served as well.

On top of the murder charge, Herbert had also pled guilty to grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to the attack on Maltby. Initially he was given a minimum term of 16 years and three months in prison, which was later reduced to 15-and-a-half years upon appeal. The term was then cut another year in 2020 when a High Court judge ruled the Herbert had made "exceptional progress" while in jail.

Now Metro reports that the 30-year-old Herbert has been set free after the parole board found he "had made significant changes to his life which reflected his remorse, his insight and increased maturity."

"After considering the circumstances of his offending and examining the evidence for the progress made while in custody, the panel was satisfied that Mr Herbert was suitable for release," read a document that laid out his release.

In the aftermath of Lancaster's death, her mother Sylvia launched a foundation in her memory that worked against violence and prejudice. She said in a statement, "I’m obviously very disappointed in the result of the parole hearing. Once again, we have a justice system that fails to deliver justice. However much progress people make in prison, they have been given their sentence in recognition of the extent of their crime. The judge at the murder trial described the attack on Sophie as 'feral,' with the attackers’ behavior 'savage and merciless.’"

She continued, "Her injuries were so severe, the paramedics attending the scene could not facially distinguish if she were male or female. How can you bear knowing the reality of the level of violence my daughter was subjected to, and stack that up against reducing the minimum tariff because they have done well in prison? However, they have progressed, the minimum justice for the family is them serving the sentence they were given. Her attackers may not have been given a life sentence, but I have."

Harris, who was found guilty of Lancaster's murder and also admitted the attack on Maltby, was jailed with a minimum term of 18 years and remains in prison.

Herbert, now free, will still be subject to restrictions on his movements, his living arrangements and the people he is allowed to associate with.

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