Creating a fairer Britain
On Friday 13 April 2007, Colin Greenwood was assaulted by two teenagers – Lewis Barlow, 14, and Leon Gray, 15 – on the way from his partner's home to the nearby tram stop.
On Friday 13 April 2007, Colin Greenwood was assaulted by two teenagers – Lewis Barlow, 14, and Leon Gray, 15 – on the way from his partner's home to the nearby tram stop. Colin lived in another part of Sheffield but was a regular visitor to his partner, with whom he had four children. He was a 45-year-old partially-sighted man who was frequently taunted on the estate because of his alcoholism. On this occasion, the teenagers punched him, pulled him to the ground and kicked and stamped on him so that his head bounced off the concrete. The assault lasted between four and five minutes.
Colin subsequently got up but staggered and fell, hitting his head on the ground. Witnesses offered him help but he refused to get an ambulance. He made it to the tram but collapsed later that evening and was taken to hospital where he died early the next morning. His death was due to a head injury which could have occurred by the head being struck a blow or blows, or when he fell to the ground.
Both the assailants had verbally abused Colin on numerous occasions and Barlow had targeted his partner's house for other antisocial behaviour including throwing a dirty nappy at their window.
Colin had stopped carrying a white cane as he had been attacked before and he felt the cane drew attention to his disability, making him a greater target for harassment.
Witnesses reported that prior to the assault Colin had been confronted by Barlow, who had threatened to stab him. Colin kicked out at him, which may have triggered the later assault. After the assault, the perpetrators were heard boasting about beating up ‘Colin the drunk’.
Both Barlow and Gray were initially found guilty of murder but this was quashed on appeal and they pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The Greenwoods had been in close contact with a number of different public agencies. Colin was in touch with health services in relation to his deteriorating eyesight and his alcoholism was well known. Lee Adams, deputy chief executive of Sheffield City Council, highlighted that Colin’s partner had made several complaints about being harassed at home but had not related this to disability. ‘They seemed to feel it was related to the alcoholism and other discriminatory issues... so it was a very complex situation.’
According to the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, Meredydd Hughes, Colin was ‘very well known to his local policeman’ and had reported 15 crimes against him over a 10 year period. He also had a criminal record himself.
His assailants had come to the attention of the police for committing antisocial behaviour but it was not considered serious enough to warrant specific attention.
Both the perpetrators were heard boasting of their attack on Colin before their arrest. They were found guilty of murder in September 2007 and jailed for at least 12-and-a-half years for Colin's murder. The case was not prosecuted as a disability hate crime although the perpetrators had told friends they expected to get long sentences for the attack. The police believed that Colin’s alcoholism, rather than his visual impairment, was the key motivation for the assault. The judge described them as ‘out of control, amoral and prepared to use gratuitous and mindless violence on vulnerable people’.
Their convictions were subsequently quashed at the Court of Appeal. They admitted manslaughter and were jailed for four years each and released after two.
No serious case review was carried out.