The rights and wrongs of sentencing children to years in detention or prison is hotly debated among experts. Some argue that justice for the victims comes first and foremost, especially when the crimes are particularly horrible. Others believe rehabilitation is crucial, and that we can always hold out hope for redemption if the criminal is caught young enough. Here, we look back at some of the most notorious child criminals who've been caged in the UK over the past decades.
Daniel was a seemingly normal, 14-year-old boy when he used a hammer to beat his mother to death. Police were shocked to discover Daniel had actually written an account of the murder before he committed it, as if it were a soap opera plot. In 2012 he was jailed for at least 16 years, with the lead copper on the case saying: "The level of violence, degree of planning and extent of his lies is not only shocking, but it is also chilling that a boy of 14 could do this."
Robert Thompson and Jon Venables
Arguably the most notorious child criminals in British legal history, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were just 10 when they led toddler James Bulger away from his mother in a Merseyside shopping centre. They later tortured and beat the child to death. The children were detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure in 1993, and – after heated controversy over how long they should serve – were released after eight years with new identities.
Santre Sanchez Gayle
Dubbed Britain's youngest hitman, Gayle was 15 when he was hired to assassinate a young mother. He knocked on her door and blasted her with a shotgun, for the sum of £200. "When we saw the CCTV we all thought it was a professional hitman," a police officer said. "There was no hesitation and he shows no nerves. It did not look like a 15-year-old boy." He was banged up in 2011 with a minimum term of 20 years, though the person who hired him remains elusive.
A misfit at school, 15-year-old James Fairweather had boasted of wanting to kill, but nobody saw it coming when he actually went ahead and did it. Fairweather stabbed two people to death, knifing one of them in the eyes so she could not "see evil". His brazen, random attacks struck fear into his Essex community before he was eventually nabbed while planning a third killing. In 2016 he was detained for a minimum term of 27 years.
In 2014, a 61-year-old teacher on the cusp of retirement was subjected to a nightmarish attack in the middle of a lesson. While bending over to help a pupil, she was stabbed by an apparently ordinary boy – 15-year-old Will Cornick – who ended her life in a hate-filled frenzy. A psychiatrist later noted that Cornick had a "gross lack of empathy" and a "degree of callousness rarely seen in clinical practice." Cornick himself said "Everything I've done is fine and dandy." He is now serving a 20-year minimum sentence.
Connor Doran, Brandon Doran and Simon Evans
In 2013, brothers Connar and Brandon Doran, and their friend Simon were convicted of the shocking and senseless murder of a homeless man. Aged 17, 14 and 14 respectively, the lads left the man utterly broken on the street before he died in hospital. The Doran brothers' mum was also jailed for providing false alibis for her sons, and it was revealed that their older brother was also serving a life sentence for murder.