On June 18th 2019, two teenage boys were found guilty of the murder of Ana Kriégel.
Ana, aged just 14, was murdered by the two boys who were aged 13 at the time. One of them, known as Boy A, was also charged with sexually assaulting Ana.
She had been lured to a derelict property, Glenwood House, in south-west Dublin on May 14th 2018. Her body was found three days later, naked but for a pair of black socks.
The now-retired State Pathologist, Prof Marie Cassidy, told the court that Ana had sustained around sixty injuries.
They are the youngest people in the history of the State to be convicted of murder.
Under the Children’s Act 2001 (amended by the Criminal Justice Act 2006), they cannot be named due to their age. The age of criminal responsibility in Ireland is 12, however this is reduced to 10 in cases of rape and murder. Anyone under 18 is classed as a child in Irish law. Information such as their addresses, the schools they attend, or any other information (such as photos of their family members) that leads to their identification cannot be released.
And so, they remain known as Boy A and Boy B.
As details of Ana’s last moments were released, it shocked and appalled the Irish public. Outside of gang-related activity and road tragedies; unlawful deaths in Ireland are somewhat rare. According to the CSO, there were 74 homicide offences (which includes four sub-categories; murder, manslaughter, infanticide, and dangerous driving leading to death) in 2018.
Inconsistent alibis and a catalogue of evidence, including Ana’s blood being found on Boy A’s boots, led to the conviction of the two boys.
Boy A was convicted of murder and aggravated sexual assault, and Boy B was found guilty of murder.
But should their names be released upon their conviction?
This is a moral conundrum we encounter time after time when it comes to the harrowing cases where children are convicted of heinous crimes; most notably Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the Edlington brothers, and Mary Bell – all of whom were granted lifelong anonymity.
In relation to Boy A and Boy B, some have argued that it is in the public’s interest to name them – with some posing the question ‘if they are capable of such an act at 13, what will they do at 23, or 33?’.
Across the water in England, a government-commissioned review found that young offenders should be granted lifelong anonymity.
But in Ireland, no such independent review exists – as for Ireland, this is uncharted territory.
The other question begged is, if people are capable of such brutality, can they ever truly be rehabilitated? These are questions we don’t have the answer to, and will ultimately have to be decided by experts; namely the Parole Board.
Another criticism prevalent on social media following the conviction is that of Ana’s right to anonymity. Every detail of her last moments were laid bare and lapped up by the media during the trial – so why are Boy A and Boy B afforded the luxury of remaining nameless?
Why previous young killers have been named
In 2014, 16-year-old Will Cornick’s anonymity was lifted by a High Court judge in England following the murder of schoolteacher Ann Maguire. Mr Justice Coulson cited ‘deterrence’ and public interest as his reasons for making Cornick’s name and image public. This was a controversial decision however, and under the European Convention on Human Rights, those who have served their sentences are afforded to right to privacy – and the right to move on.
In 2003, when 15-year-old Darren Goodwin was convicted of murdering 14-year-old Darragh Conroy in Co. Laois, Goodwin was able to be named in the press as the trial did not take place in the Children’s Courts. RTÉ’s Legal Affairs Correspondent Orla O’Donnell explains that following the trial, the law was amended to prevent this loophole.
In an article published following the conclusion of Boy A and Boy B’s trial, O’Donnell explains that if one were to seek the publication of Boy A and Boy B’s identities in public interest, an “extremely strong case” would need to be put forward to “satisfy a judge that it should be done.”
“Some legal sources say their understanding of the law is that the prohibition on the identification of a child applies for the duration of their childhood and not beyond, meaning they could be identified after they turn 18,” O Donnell adds.
Naming and shaming
Often when a heinous crime is reported on, many call for the perpetrator to be ‘named and shamed’.
This circles back to the earlier point made concerning public interest. Many have argued that their names should be released as they would not want Boy A or Boy B to move into their community upon their release.
After all, no one knows who they are – and by extension, what they did.
To uphold the anonymity enforced by the courts, representatives from both Facebook and Twitter came before a judge at the Central Criminal Court to be reminded that it is a criminal offence to publish anything leading to their identification, thejournal.ie reports.
In the days following the verdict, the Central Criminal Court heard that following the publication of the names and images of Ana’s killers on social media, Boy B’s family have had to go into hiding. Mr Justice Michael White ordered An Garda Síochana to pursue anyone posting such information with “vigour”.
But what if people get it wrong, and are free to publically speculate via the platforms provided to us by Facebook and Twitter? If such restrictions did not exist – what’s to stop someone from maliciously spreading false information?
Online speculation can have real consequences – especially in cases of mistaken identity.
Last Thursday, the Central Criminal Court heard that pictures of a child, wrongly identified as one of Ana’s killers, had been circulated on social media. This rumour is one that is likely to stick with the innocent boy for the rest of his life.
And if their names ever will be released, such sensitive information will need to come directly from the judiciary system – not social media.
There has been speculation that by naming the boys illegally on social media, it will harm the prosecution when it comes to the sentencing in July, however, I cannot find a reliable source backing up this claim.
In 1999 the European court of human rights ruled that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were aged 11 when convicted of murdering 2-year-old James Bulger, did not receive a fair trial in 1993.
Every effort was made to ensure Boy A and Boy B received a fair trial. Due to their age, special arrangements were made. The judge and barristers did not don wigs or robes. The boys were permitted to sit with their families in the public galleries. Only a limited number of journalists were allowed into the courtroom, and the trial was closed to the public.
Another concern is if the boys’ names are released, the story may become about them.
There’s an analogy to be made if we look across the water in the US. School shootings are a major problem in the States, with 113 people being killed or injured in 2018. Most school shooters are males aged between 16 and 17.
School shooters’ faces are often plastered across front pages everywhere. Experts in criminology, law, and journalism have advocated for the killers to remain anonymous to deny them of any twisted sense of attention they may have been seeking.
Although school shootings are a world away from Ana’s case, I do believe there are some correlations to be made between the two.
These are cases involving children killing children.
Often when the killers are named, the victim is no longer part of the story.
They become lost in a convoluted story about Boy X’s descent into depravity.
Whether or not they should be named upon their release, or if they will have lifelong anonymity, is another argument to be had further down the line. We still do not know if Boy A will be issued a Certificate of Conviction concerning the charge of aggravated sexual assault, and if he will be monitored as other convicted sex offenders are by the Gardaí upon his release.
But at this point in time, what good will naming them and sharing images of them do?
The judicial system has done its job. It’s time to let Ana’s family grieve in peace, there has been enough of a media circus.
Throughout the trial, we’ve seen what can only be described as lurid sensationalism from certain news outlets. Running with headlines relating to satanism, describing every moment of Ana’s torture, focusing on only the most horrifying pieces of evidence.
What gets lost in this type of irresponsible reporting however, is that fact that at the centre of this case is a little girl who was very real, and very loved.
Following the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three children; Liam (14), Niall (11), and Ryan (16), a social media campaign titled ‘Her Name Is Clodagh’ was launched with the aim of shifting the focus away from the perpetrators, and instead focusing on the victims.
Following the horrific Cavan murder-suicide in 2016, we knew everything there was to know about the killer, Alan Hawe. We were told of his work with the GAA, the local church, and how he was viewed as a “pillar of the community”. Responding to the coverage of the tragedy, politician Gary Gannon wrote: “You know what the worst thing is? Not just that the murder of a woman and her children becomes the footnote in a story about a man’s mental health, but that the woman is totally disappeared in all media discourse.”
We don’t need tabloids interviewing Boy A and Boy B’s neighbours. We don’t need quotes from teachers saying “he was a nice child, but perhaps a bit strange”. We don’t need to look at an image and marvel at how innocent the killers appeared.
What we do know, and what is important, is that her name was Ana.
Ana was born in Siberia in 2004. Ana’s parents Geraldine and Patric adopted her in 2014 and took her home to Co. Kildare. She was brought up as part of a loving family, and had two special days each year; her birthday in February, and adoption day in August.
Her mother says Ana was an incredible swimmer. Vibrant Ana loved gymnastics, singing, and dancing. Her mother recalls how Ana would spend hours practising her dance moves in the front room.
Ana, however, had trouble making friends. Despite loving primary school, she was constantly alienated and bullied when she started secondary school.
If anything is to come from this trial, it is to talk to your children.
Talk to them about the debilitating impact of bullying, what they can do to if they see someone being bullied, and encourage them to come to you or a teacher if they feel they are being bullied.
Talk to them about consent, what they may come across online and on social media, and again, encourage them to never be afraid to come to you with anything they find distressing or troubling; either online or offline.
At this point, I’d like to draw your attention to a thoughtful, sensitive, and respectful piece of journalism by Conor Gallagher for the Irish Times. Victims are often dehumanized during such trials. We lose sight of the person that was, and often, they are merely regarded as a piece of evidence. But Gallagher captures her spirit beautifully; particularly in the last couple of paragraphs.
My condolences are with Ana’s family at this time.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.