Should Children Who Murder Have Anonymity?

Thursday, 20 June 2019

I have found myself completely submerged in the news this week, following the trial of two teenage boys (named as Boy A and Boy B in the media), who have now been found guilty of the murder of Ana Kriegel, a 14 year old girl from Dublin, Ireland. The release of the horrific details surrounding Ana's brutal murder has triggered every kind of negative emotion that any human could possibly feel. As the details and facts begin to spread, so does the public outcry for a lift on the anonymity of the two boys, who were aged 13 and 14 years old at the time of the murder. 

  • The murder and trial of the two boys has been documented impeccably in this article written by Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times, and I would highly recommend reading it if you want to familiarise yourself with all of the facts. 

The general public are no strangers to media blackouts when it involves the names and images of teenage killers. We seen a similar reaction earlier in the year, following the murder of 6 year old Alesha MacPhail in the Isle of Bute, Scotland. In that case, the judge decided to lift anonymity following the sentencing of the killer, Aaron Campbell, who was 16 at the time of his arrest, and people applauded this on every platform, agreeing it was the correct decision. 

Because of Ana's case and the media confirmation that the boys identities will never be revealed, members of the public are now taking matters into their own hands. Speculation has begun, which means images and rumoured names are circulating all across the internet. 

This is completely illegal and I do NOT recommend that you do this, regardless of how you feel.

I do have to question why people share things of this nature, knowing the implications. The potential of ruining someone's life if you share the wrong picture is massive, and the chances of actually encountering either of the boys in a lifetime is slim, therefore there is no actual reason for anyone to know. I haven't seen any names when researching this case, however it certainly wouldn't make me feel differently about them, finally knowing who they are. 

Around 5 years ago, a lady named Angela Wrightson was murdered only a few streets away from where I was living at the time. She was murdered brutally by two teenage girls who were the same age as the two boys mentioned above. Those two girls also had anonymity and a media blackout was applied, but their names were, again, circulating for days around the town's Facebook groups and Twitter too. Having seen their real names and their Facebook profiles shared multiple times (before they were taken down and a warning issued by the police), I noticed people who were late to the game had started to spell their names wrong, get them mixed up by surname and even posted pictures of school girls who looked alike but had nothing to do with the crime. "Is this her? It looks exactly like her" they'd say, and share the addresses of possible family members. 

This is when an interest in something becomes a witch hunt. 

I could only imagine the horror that those innocent parents felt, knowing their children's pictures were circulating the internet and they were being named as murderers despite not having anything to do with the crime. One girl even posted a public message begging people to stop messaging her, stating she had nothing to do with the crime and just so happened to share the same name as one of them.

On the contrary, I see the point being made that innocent people would not be wrongfully accused if the identity of these criminals was released, to end speculation. I do understand this and part of me agrees, especially when fake images are widespread and put innocent people at risk. However, I also have to ask myself if it is really something I could make an informed decision on, as a regular human being who has no proper understanding of the criminal justice system.

Having studied Psychology for a brief spell, I am aware of an overwhelming desire to fill the empty pieces of a puzzle we have created in our brain - the intense need to know why something has happened and how we can avoid it happening again. This usually relates to things like why a relationship has broken down, why a car accident may have happened or the symptoms somebody had before they unexpectedly dropped down dead. It allows us to make connections in our brain and figure out a resolve if we are ever in a similar situation. I truly believe this is exactly why the desperation to know a killers identity is still so rife among us. It is the final piece to the puzzle, before we can move on. 

However, putting ourselves in the shoes of both families brings a whole new host of questions and emotions.

Sharing a suspected image of the guilty party might reduce the sentence they receive, and cause a great deal of pain to the victims family, who just wanted closure. We don't relate to the accused because we could never imagine ourselves having anything in common with them, and so we naturally distance ourselves from them. We wish them dead, we hope they will never see the light of day again and we ache for the victims family, praying it will never happen to somebody we know or love. 

Although it is tremendously difficult, we don't stop to wonder how a child could have ever done this to another human being, and what could have possibly went wrong in order for them to carry out something so atrocious. If this was our own child or a child we knew, we would ask all of those questions and insist on answers before judgement, but that isn't how it works in this social media frenzied world. We don't have trust in the justice system anymore, and in outrageous cases like this, I can understand why.

"In 2016, a government-commissioned review said child criminals should be given life-long anonymity. 
Pippa Goodfellow of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said anonymity is an important part of the rehabilitation of children who offend - and naming them as adults, especially in the age of social media, "makes it very difficult for them to put their past behind them". 
She told the BBC: "If a child who had turned their life around was identified upon reaching adulthood and labelled 'an offender', this could have disproportionately negative affects on their relationships, education and employment opportunities."

I have previously been very vocal on my own social platforms, though, about my opinion of Jon Venables, who is another child murderer with a protected identity. In that case, I do struggle to understand why his identity is still a mystery to the public. The difference between Venables and other cases alike, is that he has had multiple chances at rehabilitation and has now re-offended repeatedly as an adult, which makes him a current danger to children. I often wonder if it means he could commit any crime without being exposed, due to the risk of anybody discovering who he truly is - in prison or not. 

So do we give children one chance and they're out? Or should they get a shot at reforming their lives so they can merge back into society as a law-abiding adult?

Overall, whenever I think about cases like this, I find myself in a complete moral dilemma. On one hand, I don't think any murderer should be given protection. Murder is the most serious crime that any human being could commit, and unforgivable in every way. If that was my child, I would want the whole world to know exactly who it was and I would want everybody to hold them accountable for their actions. To think I may be living across the street from James Bulger's killer without knowing makes me feel uneasy and fearful too. On the other hand, and again, as a mother, I question how I would feel if this was my son who had committed such a heinous crime. Would I want the whole world to know who they were, knowing they'd never live a normal life again, if there was a chance they could be rehabilitated? I guess it's impossible to know, and something I hope I would never have to find out. 

I would love to hear your opinion, regardless of if you agree or not. You can reply via Twitter, or leave a comment below. 

  • Disclaimer: I did not intend on going into depth about any of these cases, and have purposely avoided talking about most of them in detail as that is a different matter entirely. I have used Ana's case as an example because of the recent media coverage. I am just as disgusted as everybody else following the details released about Ana's brutal murder, and the two teenagers accused. I do not sympathise with them, at all, and my heart goes out to Ana's family during this difficult time. This is purely an unbiased discussion about whether children who murder should be given another chance or not. I have included links for most of the things I discussed if you would like to read about any of it in more detail. 

Post a comment

Fern Olivia © . Design by Berenica Designs.