Government review calls for lifelong media anonymity for child criminals

Child criminals should be given life-long anonymity to reduce reoffending rates, a government-commissioned review has recommended.

Ministers are considering introducing legislation to give indefinite anonymity to offenders who commit crimes while under 18, The Times reported.

Had such a law been in place when Robert Thompson and Jon Venables murdered two-year-old James Bulger, the public would never have known their identities.

Currently, defendants under the age of 18 are automatically granted anonymity when they appear in a youth court and are routinely granted discretionary anonymity if they appear at a crown court.

But in both cases this anonymity ends when the defendants reach the age of 18.

The Times reported that in the review of the youth justice system published earlier this month, author Charlie Taylor said: “Once the child turns 18 years of age their name may once again be reported, which risks undermining their rehabilitation as their identity could be established on the internet even though a conviction may have become spent for criminal records purposes.”

The Just for Kids Law charity welcomed the recommendation, saying: “Being named and shamed for what they have done or accused of doing prevents them ever being able to move on.”

But the Conservative MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, said the public had a right to know who was convicted of serious offences.

Child suspects were not legally entitled to anonymity but it was extremely rare for media outlets to name them.

Mr Taylor said this situation could “undermine” a future order banning identification and should also be changed.

The Ministry of Justice said it would “engage with interested parties, including the Home Office, media and youth justice interest groups” on the recommendations, The Times reported.

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