Cornick, it seemed to Don and the family, was being treated not as a cold-hearted killer but someone to be protected and helped. There was talk of ‘rehabilitation’ and his best interests. The trial judge only allowed his name to be reported at the last minute, after reflecting on the public interest aspect and severity of the case. The family’s only consolation was that their many questions would, at least, be answered at Cornick’s trial.
Then, at the end of October 2014, they learned he was pleading guilty. This meant instead of being quizzed as to his motives and exactly what happened that day, it was just to be a one-day hearing for sentencing.And the relieved authorities could begin to brush it under the carpet.
He noted wryly how, despite being flanked by his mother and father in court, 6ft 2in Cornick was also accompanied by a group of child protection officers.Well, of course! To them, he represents not a waste of skin and oxygen who should be sealed in a cell far away from the rest of society for the rest of his natural life, but a continued opportunity for employment in the secure bosom of the public sector...
The proceedings, Don says, felt ‘scripted’. ‘If you were listening with your eyes closed, you couldn’t distinguish between the prosecution and the defence. The big statement from the prosecution was that normally in such dreadful cases there is some explanation for what has happened in the family background, but that didn’t apply in this case. It’s something that has been said repeatedly — that he was a good, bright boy from a good home.’You couldn't distinguish between them because they don't work for individuals or injured parties, but for the State.
The Maguire family then learned Leeds City Council would not conduct a Serious Case Review into Ann’s death.
‘We were told that it didn’t fulfil the criteria,’ says Don. ‘But you can’t have a criteria for something that has never happened before [Philip Lawence’s killer was not a pupil at his school, and had stabbed him outside as he went to break up a fight].
‘To me, it was a penny-dropping moment — my sense was that the authorities had an agenda and it was to avoid all public scrutiny.’Readers of this blog might wonder why it took so long for that penny to drop.
But the family are clearly people who had never before run up against this sort of thing. They had faith. And faith rarely survives contact with reality.
Incredibly, no pupils were interviewed, a decision the report justified ‘in recognition of the significant trauma and emotional impact on those involved’.
The same understanding was not extended to the family, however. When approached for interview by the inquiry’s independent adjudicator — who was accompanied by two legal representatives, although the family had not been advised to bring any of their own — they were asked to meet in the hubbub of a bar in central Leeds.
‘It was like meeting Arthur Daley at the Winchester Club in the TV series Minder,’ says Don.
‘It was atrocious. It’s difficult to believe people in charge of large organisations with serious responsibilities for people’s welfare can carry out their jobs in such a fashion.’Sadly, it's not. It's all too easy, because there's a wealth of evidence. Only ordinary people who are not vested in the State for their employment can cut through this:
The inquest jury at least acknowledged, unlike the council review, that there had been missed opportunities to save Ann.
Don says: ‘I was beginning to give up all hope of any integrity or honesty in any public bodies. That jury renewed my faith in humanity, because with the minimum of evidence they saw that things could and should have been done better.’
This dignified family, however, refuse to indulge in anger. ‘I’m disappointed,’ says Don. ‘You live your life thinking that when something terrible happens, that at these times officialdom — even though we know it’s flawed — will do its duty. Yet it seems there is now an aversion to any kind of responsibility or accountability.’It's not new. It's as old as time itself. Unless you have a 'victim card' to wave (and being white middle class educated English with no dysfunction, you will never have such a card), the State will steamroller you if you stand in its path.