Beyond the Wall, HMP Glenochil, Scotland Gold Award for Watercolour

Beyond the Wall, HMP Glenochil, Scotland Gold Award for Watercolour

Last week the nation found out the name of the killer of teacher Anne Maguire. Although it may sell newspapers what interests the public is not the same as the public interest. We may want to know more about this perpetrator but is that just prurience?

  • This article is written by both Julie Davies and Dr Eleanor Peters, senior lecturers in the department of law and criminology at Edge Hill University
  • In his judgment Mr Justice Coulson said he came down ‘firmly on the side of the public interest‘. ‘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.’

‘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.’
Mr Justice Coulson

In many countries of the world he would not have been named. In many countries he would not have been prosecuted because at 15 years of age he would be too young to be held criminally responsible. At just 10, England and Wales has one of the lowest ages of criminal responsibility in Europe.

There are different reactions to the sentencing of children for heinous crimes across the globe; comparative studies have demonstrated that the rights of the child are not always paramount in the eyes of a demanding, authoritarian, populist media and why should a senior member of the judiciary listen to the demands of a baying media whose motivation is to sell papers irrespective of the complexities of the case?

This case is not without its tragedies or complexities. The horrific murder of a well-loved teacher, the failure of a society and system that did not recognise or respond to what were obvious problems affecting a young person. We may never know what prompted him to carry out this shocking crime, what we do know is that he had publicly demonstrated his dislike of Anne.

Perhaps this was negated owing to the fact that he was considered a bright pupil from a respectable family. Whilst it’s not wise to presume, assumptions are always made, especially by those baying for a ‘story’. There has been much debate regarding the treatment of children by the CJS – not much about whether their identity need to be protected.

Children’s identities when involved in court as suspect, victim or witness have long been protected. Section 39 orders, made under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, are discretionary orders that prevent identification of children or young persons. In imposing an order, the judge should balance the interests of the public with the interests of the child or young person. The widely accepted basis for Section 39 orders is that children and young persons should be given the chance of rehabilitation and returning to society. Of course publicly identifying the child in a notorious case such as this one can lead to problems for the child and his family.

At the heart of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child lies a commitment to provide a set of inalienable rights that serve to protect the child irrespective of whether or not they fall within the remit of the criminal justice system. Yet as Lord Harris, and many others working within criminal justice opine, far too many vulnerable people prone to self-harm and suicide people are being incarcerated. The fact that so many of these are children is simply immoral.

 

Profile photo of Julie Davies About Julie Davies
Julie is a senior lecturer in the department of law and criminology at Edge Hill University

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8 Comments

  • John H November 14, 2014 7:20 pm

    I would say yes it was My reason is that this young man appears to very dangerous in that not only did he murder his teacher in front of the hole class but according to evidence produced at trial he intended to do it again to others some of who were his own class mates

  • John H November 14, 2014 7:21 pm

    Correction Whole not hole

  • Martin Wright November 14, 2014 9:34 pm

    The effect of deterrence is far from clear. Also, if the young man responds to humane treatment and is eventually released, as we hope, there is a danger that the media and internet will pursue him, forcing him to take a new identity, which in itself would be a constant strain and make it more difficult for him to behave correctly.

  • Jan November 15, 2014 10:48 am

    My so jordan Cunliffe was age 15 and named as a murderer in the joint enterprise murder of Garry Newlove in 2008. Jordan did not inflict the single blow that Newlove received and later died of. There were five defendants only three convicted. Before trial the headlines talked if two brothers age 15 but not twins had been charged. It didn’t take much to work out that the 15 yr old who was found not guilty was in fact the younger brother of the boy found guilty. It didn’t stop the press to be allowed to print the addresses of both our homes. Leaving the acquitted boy with nowhere to run and recover from the ordeal of a trial and the loss of his much loved brother. To top it off pictures of Jordan’s face covered pages of papers a face that resembled his own. So if anyone was in any doubt that pretty much sorted that out. If this was all done out of public interest I ask why to this day do the media continue to report the crime as a gang attack and that Newlove received over 40 injuries when the trial proved this to be untrue. Why did the judge place a gagging order prevented the public ever knowing Jordan Cunliffe was intact blind and due for transplant surgery in BOTH eyes. Sure that is of more interest to the public than to be told what street his family lived on. but it was a joint enterprise conviction and maybe the public would be too interested in hearing how a blind 15 year old could be found guilty of murder especially after hearing the victims wife say he deserved life in prison because he stood and watched and did nothing to stop the attack.

  • Jan November 15, 2014 10:51 am

    My son jordan Cunliffe was age 15 and named as a murderer in the joint enterprise murder of Garry Newlove in 2008. Jordan did not inflict the single blow that Newlove received and later died of. There were five defendants only three convicted. Before trial the headlines talked if two brothers age 15 but not twins had been charged. It didn’t take much to work out that the 15 yr old who was found not guilty was in fact the younger brother of the boy found guilty. It didn’t stop the press to be allowed to print the addresses of both our homes. Leaving the acquitted boy with nowhere to run and recover from the ordeal of a trial and the loss of his much loved brother. To top it off pictures of Jordan’s face covered pages of papers a face that resembled his own. So if anyone was in any doubt that pretty much sorted that out. If this was all done out of public interest I ask why to this day do the media continue to report the crime as a gang attack and that Newlove received over 40 injuries when the trial proved this to be untrue. Why did the judge place a gagging order that prevented the public ever knowing Jordan Cunliffe was intact blind and due for transplant surgery in BOTH eyes. Surely that is of more interest to the public than to be told what street his family lived on. but it was a joint enterprise conviction and maybe the public would be too interested in hearing how a blind 15 year old could be found guilty of murder especially after hearing the victims wife say he deserved life in prison because he stood and watched and did nothing to stop the attack.

  • Christopher Lennon November 15, 2014 6:41 pm

    Jan, what was the evidence against your son Jordan and what did the judge say about Jordan’s role in his summing up? Why was he with the perpetrators at the time and what were they doing, if not looking for trouble? What you have written is compelling and one can sympathise with a mother in your position but your account is too selective to allow an independent assessment.
    As for the young man the subject of the article, I approve of the court not treating this 6’2″ lad as a ‘child’. He needs treatment over an extended period of time and he will receive it. The fact he will need a new identity in 20 years’ time is of little concern. He could hardly return to the same community in any case.

  • John H November 15, 2014 10:34 pm

    Mr Wright this boy murdered his teacher in front of the class and without provocation. So if/when he’s released the public needs to know who they might be dealing with Also don’t forget that evidence produced at trial suggested that she wasn’t going to be the only one and that there were others he intended would suffer the same fate

  • John H November 16, 2014 11:46 pm

    Jan you claim that one of convicted was blind! Was this mentioned at trial and if so was contested by the prosecution or just ignored by the court??

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