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Teacher killer sentence 'too long'

The life sentence given to the 16-year-old schoolboy who murdered teacher Ann Maguire is "disproportionate", youth justice campaigners have said.

Will Cornick was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years for killing Mrs Maguire, 61, who was stabbed seven times from behind as she taught a Spanish class at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds in April.

Mr Justice Coulson warned Cornick, who was 15 at the time, that he might never be released from prison as he passed sentence at Leeds Crown Court yesterday.

But Penelope Gibbs , who chairs the Standing Committee for Youth Justice (SCYJ) umbrella group of charities and campaign groups, said the sentence was too long and that more emphasis should be placed on rehabilitation.

She said: "I don't think a child - and he was a child - should get a life sentence because they are young, their brain is not mature and a life sentence is indeterminate, it could last forever. I think no other western European country would impose a life sentence on a teenager.

"Do we want him to be rehabilitated? Do we want him to leave prison the lowest risk possible of causing more harm to others? Yes. How long do we need to achieve that, rather than how long do we need to punish him for.

"We do need to punish him but I think to punish him for longer than he's been alive for is disproportionate."

Ms Gibbs said the sentence should not exceed the length of his life so far.

She added: "He needs to be in prison, he needs to be rehabilitated so he's no longer a danger to himself and others but a minimum of 20 years is too long.

"You've got to take both things: he needs to be safe to be released but the key thing is about rehabilitation."

Part of Cornick's rehabilitation could see him return to a classroom during his sentence.

Brian Hamilton, chair of the Manchester College: University and College Union prison branch, said Cornick could be taught in a class of around eight people with a focus on basic literacy and numeracy skills and vocational training to ensure prisoners are employable on their release.

Cornick, who took and passed five GCSEs a year early, would be unlikely to be able to study for higher level qualifications.

Mr Hamilton, who teaches in prisons, said: "I believe this young man is quite intelligent. He would probably be above the level they are trying to take them to in that establishment."

He added: "It used to be that there was funding for them to do higher level courses but because of the cuts it's more difficult for people of a higher ability to continue their education."

Mr Hamilton said Cornick would be treated the same as any other offender.

He said: "They will do a risk assessment on anybody but, unless they're an immediate risk and deemed too dangerous to be in the class, he would be treated in exactly the same way as everybody else."

Cornick attacked Mrs Maguire after boasting to friends that he was going to kill her. He also said he was going to murder other teachers, including a pregnant woman "so as to kill her unborn child".

He later told doctors: "I said I was going to do other stuff but I never got the chance, other murders. It was a triple homicide."

After the murder the teenager told psychiatrists that he "couldn't give a s***'' and added: ''Everything I've done is fine and dandy.''

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