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Ruling on evidence at inquest into stabbed teacher’s death unlawful, court hears

The 61-year-old teacher was stabbed in the back by 15-year-old Will Cornick.

It was unlawful for a coroner not to call evidence from pupils who had contact with the schoolboy killer of teacher Ann Maguire immediately before the murder, the High Court has heard.

Mrs Maguire’s husband Don, children and nephews want Mr Justice Holroyde to order the decision taken by assistant West Yorkshire coroner Kevin McLoughlin to be reconsidered.

An inquest into Mrs Maguire’s death is due to take place before a jury at Wakefield Coroner’s Court in November.

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Will Cornick (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

The 61-year-old teacher was stabbed in the back by 15-year-old Will Cornick as she taught a Spanish class at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April 2014.

Cornick was later sentenced to life by a judge, who ordered he must serve at least 20 years and warned that he may never be released.

On Wednesday in London, counsel Nick Armstrong told the judge that it was the only occasion on which a teacher had been killed by a pupil in a British classroom and the family were anxious “that all the lessons that can be learned from this enormous tragedy are learned”.

“They want to understand precisely what happened, and to use that understanding to help ensure that all steps are taken to try to prevent it from ever happening again.”

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Ann Maguire's family are anxious for lessons to be learnt from the tragedy (Steffan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Armstrong said it was a matter “of very substantial and current public interest” at a time when there were reports of a “spike” in the number of knives in schools.

“This is our only lesson-learning opportunity in relation to that.”

Mr Armstrong said the coroner accepted that the inquest should address school rules and policies about weapons in school, reporting the presence of weapons in school, and how those rules and policies had been communicated to students.

This was because the undisputed evidence was that over the three hours before the murder, Cornick told other students what he intended to do, and showed a number of them the knife – yet no report to a member of staff was made, at least until it was too late.

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Ann Maguire (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

The coroner said that all those students – now adults – were “potentially vulnerable” and were not to be re-approached, with the result that only transcripts of their interviews with police at the time would be adduced.

“None of these interviews address school policies and rules and student knowledge of them.

“It follows that on the assistant coroner’s ruling there will be no evidence before the inquest concerning the knowledge of policies from the student side.”

Mr Armstrong said the coroner made no inquiry on the individual circumstances of any former student, no student had been asked whether they wanted to give evidence and no consideration was given to using any of the range of vulnerable witness safeguards available.

“His decision was a blanket one based on limited and generic evidence about vulnerability generally.”

This approach was unlawful, said counsel.

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