Leeds & West Yorkshire

Leeds sheep costume fire: sentence reduced on appeal

A man who set fire to a Leeds university student who was dressed as a sheep has had his jail term reduced.

Jason Whatley, 39, of Fareham, Hants, was jailed for five years in May after admitting setting fire to 19-year-old Stuart Mitchell in October 2009.

That term was later reduced to four years at Leeds Crown Court.

The Appeal Court has cut it further to three years after hearing Whatley had a "legitimate expectation" he would get a shorter sentence for pleading guilty.

Mr Mitchell was left with burns to 12% of his body after the incident in the Headingley Taps pub last October.

'Horrendous' offence

Whatley used a cigarette lighter to ignite his cotton wool and Lycra fancy dress costume.

The student needed a number of skin graft operations for burns to his ankles, arms and hands.

Whatley, who had drunk eight pints during a friend's reunion, told police he had carried out the prank "to get a laugh" from his mates.

His barrister said that the students had, by wearing the outfits consisting of hundreds of balls of cotton wool stuck onto Lycra tights and tops, "unwittingly put themselves at enormous risk".

Giving the Court of Appeal's judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Wilkie said: "The facts of this offence are frankly horrendous. He did nothing whatsoever to help.

"He should hang his head in shame for callously standing by, not even trying to help him. It was an aggravating feature that he didn't try to put right what he started."

But the judge went on to allow the appeal, saying Whatley had been give a "legitimate expectation" that he would not face a sentence of more than three years if he pleaded guilty.

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