Judge explains naming of Cornick


Published: Wednesday 5th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The High Court judge who ruled that Will Cornick could be named after the 16-year-old admitted the murder of teacher Ann Maguire has said that lifting his anonymity will have a “a clear deterrent effect” and will also aid debates about the wider issues involved.

Mr Justice Coulson took a side-swipe at “ill-informed commentators” as he published detailed reasons for why he lifted the reporting restriction that had banned the identification of Cornick.

On Monday, the judge told the teenager he must serve at least 20 years in custody after he admitted stabbing the much-loved Spanish teacher to death at Corpus Christi Catholic College, in Leeds, in April, when he was 15.

Today, in a written judgment, the judge said it was in the “public interest” to name Cornick.

He said: “In my view, naming him has a clear deterrent effect.

“Ill-informed commentators may scoff, but those of us involved in the criminal justice system know that deterrence will almost always be a factor in the naming of those involved in offences such as this.”

The judge added: “It has to be noted that this is an exceptional case.

“Public interest has been huge. There are wider issues at stake, such as the safety of teachers, the possibility of American-style security measures in schools, and the dangers of ‘internet loners’ concocting violent fantasies on the internet.

“I consider that the debate on those issues will be informed by the identification of William Cornick as the killer.

“That is not least because he cannot be dismissed as the product of a hopeless background or a dysfunctional family: on the contrary, for the reasons already given, he came from a loving and supportive family who have been devastated by what he did.”

The judge described how he had to balance Cornick’s future welfare with the public’s right to have important court cases freely and fully reported.

In his judgment, he concluded: “I found the arguments finely balanced. But in the end I came down firmly on the side of the public interest.”

The judge rejected an argument by Richard Wright QC, defending Cornick, that under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights his client should not be named due to the immediate threat to his life.

Mr Wright said there was a real and immediate danger Cornick would either kill himself or be attacked by other inmates if his identity was known.

The judge said he could not accept this argument and said that instead he had to balance two other aspects of the European Convention: Article 8, the right to privacy and a family life, and Article 10, freedom of expression.

Mr Wright had argued that Article 8 applied because of threats to Cornick’s welfare and attempts to rehabilitate him.

The judge said: “The Article 10 rights outweigh the Article 8 rights of William Cornick.

“For that reason, I concluded that the … order should be lifted.

“To put the point another way, now that he has been convicted and sentenced for the murder of Ann Maguire, the defendant has not demonstrated a need to continue the anonymity order.”

On Monday, Mr Wright told Leeds Crown Court that naming Cornick would be “wholly contrary to the welfare of the child”.

The barrister said: “Given the notoriety of this offence and the world-wide press and public interest in it, were he to be named any prospect of his rehabilitation would effectively be impossible.”

Today, the judge said: “There is no evidence anywhere that, in contrast to, say, the killer of a child, William Cornick would be at increased risk because he killed his teacher.

“The increased risk of suicide is not made out for other reasons. William Cornick was clear that, in the run-up to the murder, he was either going to kill Ann Maguire or kill himself. In consequence, he is on permanent, 24-hour suicide watch. In those circumstances, it would be impossible for the risk of suicide in his case to be any higher than it is already.

“In addition, of course, the arrangements required to ensure that he is on 24-hour suicide watch necessarily limit his contact with other inmates, and therefore reduces the risk of attack.”

Mr Wright also highlighted the risk to Cornick’s family if he was to be identified, although he accepted that reporting restrictions could not be used to protect a convicted murderer’s parents and siblings.

The QC said that naming the teenager would hamper the family’s attempt to help rehabilitate their son.

Today, the judge said an argument about Cornick’s rehabilitation has to be considered in the light of him still expressing pride in the murder.

He said: “That is one of the reasons why the psychiatrists were of the unanimous view that he was so dangerous. Rehabilitation and reform have to come from William Cornick himself if he is ever to be released from prison, and that must involve not only an acceptance of what he did, but an open admission that what he did was terribly wrong.

“I am not persuaded on the material before me that this process is going to be made significantly more difficult unless he can hide from others exactly what it was he did.

“I am also not persuaded that the identification of William Cornick will affect his family is such a way that they will not be able to provide him with the support that he needs for the purposes of his reform and rehabilitation.

“It is quite plain to me that his parents have been wonderfully supportive of him throughout this ordeal and will continue to be so, whether he is identified or not.”

On Monday, the judge heard harrowing evidence of how Cornick stabbed Mrs Maguire repeatedly from behind after first winking at a classmate.

He was told how the teenager developed a deep hatred for the 61-year-old, who had taught at the school for 40 years and was due to retire in September.

After stabbing Mrs Maguire and chasing her out of the class, he went back into the room and sat down as if nothing had happened, saying “good times”, to another student.

The judge said it was “truly grotesque” that Cornick had shown no remorse and continued to express his pride about what he did.

Published: Wednesday 5th November 2014 by The News Editor

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