I have the deepest sympathy for the family of teacher Ann Maguire, who was brutally murdered by 15-year-old William Cornick earlier this year.
Their lives have been changed irreparably by the inexplicable actions of a child who has ‘psychopathic elements’ to his personality. Also, Cornick’s sentencing to life imprisonment will have done little or possibly nothing to soothe their pain and anguish.
Mrs Maguire’s family can now expect, over the coming months and years, to hear a repetitive and loud public discussion about the rights and wrongs of a child being sentenced to an indeterminate life sentence. I imagine they will become wary of watching the news or listening to the radio, just in case an item about Cornick is suddenly broadcast. Over time the harsh reality of this cold-blooded and pre-meditated murder is likely to become secondary information to a campaign for his early release. Indeed, an array of child experts and justice campaigners are already raising their concerns.
To add to the family’s woes, they will soon discover that, at present, their views and opinions carry no weight whatsoever, in most of the legal proceedings that will impact on decisions about Cornick’s future incarceration. The eventual decision as to whether he remains a risk to the public and should be considered for release will be made on the recommendation of experts.
In the intervening years, I hope that a way is devised for the family members, should they so wish, to be involved in this process and most importantly have the ability to have some influence on the final decision.
It is right that society should debate whether a child should spend the rest of their life in prison, when they have committed such a serious and heinous crime. I just hope that in the years to come, commentators, experts and politicians give due consideration to the feelings and rights of Mrs Maguire’s family.
My view is that the circumstances of this murder means that a life sentence was appropriate and Cornick should serve at least 20 years in prison.
It is also quite right that his mental condition is treated and regularly assessed but he should only be considered for release when he is adjudged to be of no risk. Until that time, he should remain in prison and in his case that may mean for the rest of his life.