This is the reason why I find the case of Will Cornick, the adolescent who killed his Spanish teacher, Ann Maguire, so hard to reason out.
My initial reaction was one of disgust and sadness. The latter for the teacher and her family. Apparently she had been a model of an educator, a dedicated, committed professional, always thinking about the children. My disgust was caused mainly when details of the case surfaced. Apparently Will Cornick had already expressed his intentions to hurt Ann Maguire. As sentence was passed this week these alleged facts became reality. Ann Maguire’s murder had not been a spur-of-the-moment act. Will had deliberately targeted his Spanish teacher.
Yet, another side of me emerged and I can’t say that I was surprised to see it, even though this happened at an unconscious level. Being exposed to Will Cornick’s babyish face, splashed across all newspapers and television news bulletins, made me think of my own children, especially my sixteen-year-old son. Will was fifteen when he killed Ann. He was given life with a minimum tariff of twenty years, although the judge said that he might never be released.
|How fair are you?|
Whilst I sympathise with Ann Maguire’s family and condemn Will’s actions, I also feel that the sentence reflects more the public mood than actual justice. So many elements conspire against the punishment meted out to Cornick. First of all, he used social media to make his hatred against Ann Maguire as clear and vocal as possible. No one picked up on that despite the fact that we all know that we are being spied upon by government agencies and corporations. Where’s GCHQ when you need it? Secondly, in the wake of the trial there were some reports saying that Cornick himself confessed to wanting to be caught and put in prison. Surely this points at an unstable state of mind. That leads me to the third conclusion which involves the trial itself. Apparently Will Cornick showed no emotion for his actions. But, as the parent of any adolescent can tell you, this is part of teenagers’ personality. They don’t need to kill someone to show you that they don’t care whether it is their responsibility to take the rubbish out every night or not. I might sound glib but what I’m trying to say is that an adolescent is not a fully formed person; they are half way out of childhood and half way on the road to adulthood.
There’s still another side of me that struggles with these feelings of compassion towards Will Cornick. It is the side that is married to a teacher, albeit my wife works at a primary school. According to reports from former colleagues, parents and her own family, Ann Maguire summed up what education is for. She was a kind person who believed in the “innate goodness of children and young people”. So, looking at it from this point of view, Will deserves a harsh punishment. But this harsh punishment must be accompanied by a thorough and far-reaching programme of rehabilitation. He has to understand what he has done. Leaving him in jail forever and ever says more about us as a society than it says about him as a young offender. If a person as young as fifteen murders an outstanding teacher and at sixteen shows no remorse for what they have done, surely alarm bells should ring and professional support must be given.
I confess that I am torn on this issue. Part of me thinks as the father and the other part as the husband. Part of me wants Will Cornick to be punished, but the other part would rather the punishment had an effect on Will’s understanding of what he did and why it was wrong. Teenagers are famous for not knowing right from wrong sometimes. Or choosing not to know, as the cynic inside me would probably say.
I feel that Will Cornick is being made a scapegoat and his sentence used for political purposes. Especially now as we gear up for a general election in six months’ time. Locking Cornick up and throwing away the key masquerades the fact that many young people with chronic mental, social and emotional problems can’t access the services they need because these services have lost their funding and consequently closed.
By murdering Ann Maguire, Will Cornick committed a terrible and despicable crime. But are we punishing him for his actions or are we using him to divert attention from more important issues? Sadly as it usually happens in cases like this, the truth is the real casualty and I'm afraid no one will get a life sentence for killing it.
Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 12th November at 11:59pm (GMT)