Judge defends naming teenage killer of Leeds teacher

Pictured the killer of school teacher Ann Maguire  Will Cornick of Leeds
Pictured the killer of school teacher Ann Maguire Will Cornick of Leeds

The High Court judge who ruled that Ann Maguire’s killer Will Cornick could be named 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.

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.”