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Report recommends life-long 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 indefinitely ban the identification of offenders who commit crimes while under 18, the Times reported.

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

Currently, under 18s are automatically granted anonymity when they appear in a youth court and are routinely granted the same if they appear at crown court. This, however, expires when they become adults.

In the review of the youth justice system published earlier this month, its 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 are not legally entitled to anonymity but it is incredibly rare for media outlets to name them.

Mr Taylor said this situation can "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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