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Why it is now right to name Baby Peter's killers

PUBLISHED: 12:49 12 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 07 September 2010

IT IS often a source of contention between the media and the courts when, to protect innocent children, the identities of adults who have committed serious crimes are also concealed from public view by means of a court order. This can result, for instance

IT IS often a source of contention between the media and the courts when, to protect innocent children, the identities of adults who have committed serious crimes are also concealed from public view by means of a court order.

This can result, for instance, in a sex offender's identity being protected by the courts because a judge believes, usually erroneously, that it would be impossible for the media to identify the culprit without also identifying the victim.

There are tried and trusted methods through which the media will handle such a dilemma but against this is the risk (and judges are studiously aware of this) that just one irresponsible or careless report could lead to the identification of the child, a situation no-one wants to see.

As well as in sex offences, the identification rulings can also come into play in cases of physical abuse or worse, murder, as in the shocking case of little Peter Connelly, until now known only as Baby P or Baby Peter.

An added dimension to the secrecy surrounding this case was that two of the people involved were to appear at a later date on charges connected with the rape of another child. A judge ruled that because their names had appeared on the internet, they could be tried under different names - which just goes to show how far the British legal system will go to uphold the priniciple of a fair and unprejudiced trial.

Haringey Council was quick to seek legal rulings preventing the media from revealing the identities of those responsible for Peter's death. More cynical journalists believed the council was inhibiting proper reporting of an awful tragedy for which it bore some responsibility, but the council did have a duty of care to Peter's brothers and sisters and the granting of the reporting restrictions was the right thing at the time, in view of the inevitable media frenzy.

But it is also correct that the restrictions have now been lifted. In a free and open society, there can be no such thing as an anonymous murderer. At some stage, albeit in the distant future, those convicted of crimes against Baby P will be at liberty. Surely people have the right to know if they are living next door to a person with extreme criminal tendencies. Given the heinous nature of their crimes, it is a step too far, even for the most liberal of thinkers, to argue that the identities of those involved in the death of Baby Peter should be protected forever.


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