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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Explainer: Why the two boys who murdered Ana Kriegel can never be named

The judge and gardaí have made it clear that there could be severe penalties for anyone who attempts to publicly identify them.

Image: Shutterstock

ON TUESDAY, THE two boys found guilty of the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel were sentenced at the Central Criminal Court.

As part of the judge’s sentencing, he stated that the boys, known as Boy A and Boy B throughout their trial, must not be named and this order will continue when they are over 18.

Boy A was sentenced to a term of life on the first count of murder and will serve an initial 12 years, followed by a review. The sentence may be extended after the first 12 years served.

Boy A was also convicted of aggravated sexual assault. A term of 12 years was also imposed for that count, to be served concurrently.

Boy B is to serve a term of 15 years for murder, with the sentence to be reviewed after eight years, the judge said.

The boys’ trial took place at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, where this week their sentences were handed down. However, Children’s Court rules still applied to their case as the boys were both 13 years old when they killed 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in May 2018.

These rules meant neither of the boys could be named in media coverage of the case and there were strict reporting rules to prevent them being identified, even just by association. These restrictions meant, for example, journalists reporting on the trial could not name the school the boys went to.

The judge has made it clear that although the boys, now aged 15, have been convicted and sentenced, they still cannot be publicly named.

Both will serve time at Oberstown detention centre until they turn 18 and then they will be transferred to an adult prison. Even after they turn 18, it will be an offence to publicly identify them.

The judge in the case has already demonstrated the seriousness of these kinds of orders.

In June, Mr Justice Paul McDermott ordered representatives of Twitter and Facebook to appear before him after it emerged social media users had identified the 14-year-old boys.

Lawyers for Boy B had contacted the DPP’s office and alerted them to images published on Facebook alongside derogatory comments. Counsel said some of the commentators seemed to be aware that there was an order made to protect the boys’ identities.

The court heard that threats had been made online against the boys and against their families. A barrister for Boy A said there was concern for the safety of their families after a tweet pointed out that there was “information on the families online if you Google their names”. 

The court was also told that a boy who was not involved in the murder of Ana Kriegel in any way had also been wrongly identified online as one of her killers. 

The judge noted that the two social media companies had acted “in good faith” and moving quickly to delete this material. Facebook at the time said it had applied photo-matching technology to prevent this content from being re-shared on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.

An injunction was put in place requiring the social media companies to remove any photos or other material identifying the two boys which they become aware of or which is brought to their attention.

It also emerged that a family member of Boy B had been attacked in May in Dublin by a group of men after he was identified as being related to the convicted killer. The victim, who does not live in Dublin, was left with serious bruising to his face following the alleged assault.

The man was on an organised night out with friends when he was approached by the group of men, one of whom is believed to have been armed with a knife.

In July, a journalist was fined €2,500 for inadvertently naming Boy A during a live radio broadcast.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said he was satisfied that the naming of the boy was done in error and was not intentional or reckless. He said if done deliberately, the naming would have resulted in a prison sentence.

The judge also mentioned at the time, the “outrageous messaging and more” that the families of the two boys had to deal with as a result of their names being circulated.

Protection for young offenders

Under Irish law, a child over the age of 10 can be charged with more serious offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape and aggravated sexual assault. 

According to Courts Service directions, the trial process should not itself expose young defendants to “avoidable intimidation, humiliation or distress”.

“Young defendants accused of committing serious crimes may be vulnerable due to their age, level of maturity or disability when standing trial in the children’s court.” 

For these reasons, and because Irish and European laws dictate it, the ordinary trial processes in relation to children are adapted to ensure due regard to the welfare of the young defendant. 

This is why members of the public were excluded from this trial. Only officers of the court, relatives of the children involved, witnesses and members of the press were permitted to sit in the courtroom to hear the evidence.

Under the Children’s Act 2001 (amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006), no report can be published or included in a broadcast which reveals the name, address or school of any child concerned in the proceedings.

News reports also cannot include any particulars likely to lead to the identification of any child concerned.

No photographs of young defendants can be published, or images that would lead to them being identified – like that of a family member, for example.

The legislation applies to matters published or included in a broadcast or other form of public communication, including social media posts.

Penalties

Anyone found to have identified a young offender, contrary to this legislation, could be liable on summary conviction to a fine of £1,500 or a prison term of up to 12 months, or both. If the breach is considered more serious, on conviction on indictment a person could face a fine of up to €10,000 and/or up to three years in prison.

 There are rare exceptions to this law, such as:

  • If a court decides it is appropriate to identify the child for the purpose of avoiding injustice to them;
  • If the young person is unlawfully at large and it is necessary to name them for the purpose of apprehending them;
  • To comply with a court order;
  • If the court it satisfied it is necessary to dispense with requirements in the public interest.

These are the only circumstances under which a judge may allow for a juvenile offender to be publicly named. 

In the cases of Boy A and Boy B, even after they turn 18 and after they have been released from prison, they cannot be publicly identified. And it will remain an offence to do so, either in traditional media or on social media platforms. 

Superintendent John Gordon of Lucan garda station this week told reporters that files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to commentary on social media about the boys. 

He said it was important to remind people that the ruling in court extends to social media and that there would be serious consequences if there is any attempt to identify Boy A or Boy B.

New identities

A similar lifelong anonymity order was made in the case of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in England, who were 10 years old when they abducted and murdered two-year-old James Bulger in 1993. 

In 2001, the parole board ruled they were no longer a threat to public office and could be released from their detention facilities and they were given new identities. They were also moved to secret locations. 

There were a number of post-release conditions imposed on them including that they were not allowed to contact each other or visit the Merseyside region and they were required to report to probation officers. 

In 2007 it emerged that the UK Home Office had spent £13,000 preventing overseas magazines from revealing the two men’s new identities.

Venables was pleaded guilty to charges of downloading and distributing child pornorgraphy and was given a two-year sentence. The judge in the case ruled Venables new identity still could not be revealed.

He was given another new identity the following year after what was described as a “serious breach” in security. He was released from prison in 2013. 

In March this year, actress Tina Malone posted Venables’ new name and a recent photograph of him on Facebook.

She was given an eight-month suspended sentence. 

James Bulger’s father took a legal challenge to lift the lifelong order protecting Venables’ anonymity, which was turned down earlier this year. The judge in the case said there was a strong possibility that if his identity were known “he would be pursued resulting in grave and possibly fatal consequences”. 

Due to the unique nature of this crime it is unclear how the situation will play out once Boy A and Boy B are released from prison as adults. 

The anonymity order can only be lifted by a judge and that would likely only be done in extreme circumstances. Ireland does have a form of witness protection that includes the provision of new identities, but this would not normally apply to people who have been convicted of a crime. 

Boy A and Boy B could apply themselves by deed poll to change their names on their release.

This week, Mr Justice McDermott told the two boys that they will be given an opportunity to reconstruct their lives on their release from prison.

“You have the opportunity for a future, a second chance, something you so wrongfully and cruelly denied to Ana Kriegel.”

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