Young killers ‘need ID protection’

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Published: Sunday 9th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Juvenile murderers and their families need to have their identities better protected by the law, the barrister of teacher killer Will Cornick has said.

Cornick was last week sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years after he killed teacher Ann Maguire at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds.

Richard Wright QC, who represented the teenager, told The Observer that the decision by Mr Justice Coulson to name him has placed him and his siblings at risk.

He said that decision had gone against expert advice that said he would be targeted by other inmates in jail.

Cornick’s family would also suffer, Mr Wright said, and his parents’ ability to support him would be affected.

“Will Cornick has two siblings. Where is the protection for them? They are just as much victims and just as likely to suffer from being named,” he said.

The court’s decision to no longer apply section 39 of the Children and Young Person’s Act 1933 had allowed Cornick’s identity to be revealed, but Mr Wright said even if it had been enforced his name would still have got out.

“Section 39 has limited effect because of the way it’s drafted,” he said.

“It was written before websites and bloggers, and therefore has no bite on the internet. The mere fact of naming him on social media was not in contravention of the court’s [anonymity] order, and that’s obviously a problem.”

He also called for a debate to take place in the country about the importance of rehabilitation in the youth justice system, while balancing it with the public outrage against terrible offences such as this.

The newspaper also quoted Penelope Gibbs, chairwoman of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, saying she believed Cornick should have kept his anonymity as he was more likely to be rehabilitated if not named.

Media interest was not the same as public interest, she said, and anonymity for children would lead to fewer victims.

When ruling that Cornick should be named, Mr Justice Coulson said it would provide “a clear deterrent effect” and would also aid debates about the wider issues involved.

In a written judgment, he said it was in the “public interest” to name Cornick and dismissed “ill-informed commentators”.

“In my view, naming him has a clear deterrent effect,” he said.

“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.”

He 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.”

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

“I found the arguments finely balanced. But in the end I came down firmly on the side of the public interest,” he said.

He rejected an argument by Mr Wright 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.

Published: Sunday 9th November 2014 by The News Editor

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