Full case report

R v William Cornick

Reference [2014] EWHC 3623 (QB)
Court High Court (QBD) sitting at Leeds Crown Court

Judge Coulson J

Date of Judgment 3 Nov 2014


Summary

Identification – s. 39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 – Article 2 – Article 8 – Article 10


Facts

William Cornick (C) pleaded guilty to the murder of his Spanish teacher Ann Maguire on 3 November 2014. He was sentenced to detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure with a specified minimum term of 20 years. He was 15 years and 10 months old when he killed Miss Maguire, and 16 at sentence. There was widespread public interest in the case.

C’s age meant that he was the subject of an order granted by the Crown Court just a few days after the killing under s. 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (“the Act”). By then he had been named by The Sun. Following plea and sentence, C sought an extension of the s. 39 order. The media resisted by way of written submissions. The application was only in relation to C himself, and not to any of the other children who had had involvement in the case.


Issue

Should the order under s. 39 of the Act be continued on the basis either

1) that C could demonstrate that his Article 2 rights would be affected by his public identification; or,

2) if the Article 2 claim was not made out, that C’s Article 8 rights would have priority in any balancing exercise over the Press and the public’s Article 10 rights.


Held

Lifting the s. 39 order:

1) C correctly identified the high threshold required by Article 2, but it had not been crossed in this case. The risk of attack by fellow inmates relied on by C was too vague to trigger Article 2. There was no evidence that C would be at increased risk because he killed his teacher. The risk of suicide also relied on in this regard by C was not made out either. He was already on permanent 24 hour suicide watch. It would be impossible for the risk of suicide to be any higher than it was already. Although the Article 2 claim was not made out, matters relevant to C’s welfare were also relevant to the balancing exercise.

2) The balancing exercise was between C’s welfare, enshrined by s. 44 of the 1933 Act but also referable to Article 8, and the rights of the Press and the public under Article 10. There was evidence from psychiatrists that C’s identity being made known may make his rehabilitation more difficult. But this had to be seen in context. S. 39 is not concerned expressly with rehabilitation, as noted by Sir Brian Leveson P in the judgment of the Divisional Court in JC and RT v the Central Criminal Court [2014] EWHC 1041. The evidence concerning the adverse effect of C’s identification on his rehabilitation was very general. And it was to be set against C not having begun any kind of reform or rehabilitation. He still claimed to be proud of what he did. Any rehabilitation had to come from C himself and involve an acceptance of what he did and an admission that he was wrong. The Judge was not persuaded that C’s identification would affect his family in such a way that they would not be able to provide his with the support he needed.

Against the evidence regarding C’s rehabilitation, the Judge had to balance the public interest in the administration of criminal justice. This would normally require D’s identification. This was an exceptional case, public interest had been huge, and wider issues were at stake. Naming C also had a clear deterrent effect. This was a repeated feature of the authorities. Two other factors in favour of publication were the fact that C had already been publicly identified in the Press and was named on the internet, though this did not weigh particularly heavily, and the fact that any order for anonymity would not last beyond June 2016 in any event since this will be when C turns 18.

The Article 10 rights outweighed C’s Article 8 rights. Now that C had been convicted and sentenced for murder, the defence had not demonstrated a need to continue the anonymity order.


Comment

The decision to name C attracted considerable adverse comment in the media. However, the Judge here set out the extent to which various factors weighed in favour of his identification. His reference to the expiry of any order when C turned 18, and to the decision of the Divisional Court on this point in JC and RT, emphasise that only a change in the law regarding the ambit of s. 39 would prevent a similar outcome in the future.


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