Today, we learned two names, the names of a pair of murderers, who will dominate headlines and conversation on social media.
Eddie Ratcliffe and Scarlett Jenkinson were sentenced today at Manchester crown court to at least 20 and 22 years in jail respectively.
They deserve to be named and shamed for what they did.
Ratcliffe and Jenkinson, previously named only as Girl X and Boy Y, murdered Brianna Ghey.
The 16-year-old transgender girl was stabbed with a hunting knife 28 times in her head, neck, chest and back after being lured to a park on February 11 2023 in Culcheth Linear Park, Warrington.
Reading details of the case as it went through trial made me feel sick. These teens planned her killing in meticulous detail and targeted the vulnerable teen.
So it’s only right that they have had their anonymity lifted, and everyone can know who they are.
These brutal teens should not be afforded the protection that comes with anonymity after the heinous crime they committed.
Those against naming the pair – and others under 18 – protest that they’re children. But it’s about time that we recognise children can be monsters too.
In December, the judge – Mrs Justice Yip – said she would lift the killers’ anonymity order due to ‘a strong public interest in the full and unrestricted reporting of what is plainly an exceptional case.’
In fact, I want this case to spark two major changes that put victims like Brianna Ghey first.
Criminals like this should never be given new identities unless there is a truly credible threat to their life – as a matter of course they should be named and not granted anonymity if and when they are released.
Secondly, I think that all child criminals should be named, no matter their age.
As it stands, children and young people charged with crimes are usually granted a court order preventing their identity being published until they reach 18.
If there is a pressing social need where the public interest outweighs the interest of the child, this would be considered an exceptional circumstance – this usually only happens in high profile cases such as the case with Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were named before being controversially released with new identities.
But I believe that the public interest will always outweigh the interest of a child or young person who has committed a vile crime like this.
When we make the decision to name criminals like these, we are not only looking for justice for the victim, but to deter other potential killers from repeating the crime.
I think knowing they will be named can only add to that deterrent factor.
I don’t deny that revealing the names of the two who murdered Brianna Ghey is going to make their potential rehabilitation that much more difficult.
In the short term, I know, they may require additional protection and support behind bars as they become targets of those seeking vengeance.
It will also likely bring consequences and possible fury towards their families who committed no crime, but will forever be associated with the acts of their children.
I can only hope that those considering expressing anger towards the killers’ families heed the brave words of Brianna Ghey’s incredible mother, Esther, who said that we must show the perpetrator’s families ‘empathy and compassion’ for their families as ‘they too have lost a child’ and ‘must live the rest of their lives knowing what their child has done.’
Once you identify a child in this day and age, the newspaper articles will be available on the internet for life, and I know there are some who have concerns that naming Ratcliffe and Jenkinson could add to the media circus.
But, with their identities already widely circulating on social media even during the trial, I believe it is better that they are named by a judge, in the context of deterring others, not in the context of chasing shock value on TikTok or Twitter.
And we have to think about the impact revealing their identities will have on the general public.
Knowing who committed the crime, their behaviour and background could enable us to better learn the lessons of Brianna’s tragic death, to look out for warning signs, and to ensure that no other families will suffer like Brianna’s has.
It may shock parents, guardians and schools into paying closer attention to their children and taking further disciplinary measures for those who may show signs of trouble.
Jon Venables has maintained his new identity despite the fact that he has proven time and time again to still be a threat to the public, being continually recalled to prison for a string of offences, including having indecent images of children.
It’s time that we made anonymity for child criminals, especially those who carried out the kind of senseless attack that Ratcliffe and Jenkinson did, the exception, and not the rule.
The public interest is served by as many people as possible being armed with the kind of knowledge that can hopefully prevent more children dying.
Brianna Ghey deserves justice, and it will be a long, hard, and potentially impossible journey for her family to feel like it has fully been done.
But by naming her killers, the first small step on that road was taken.
Share your views in the comments below.