Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Bell

Anonymity

Child Killer Granted Lifelong Anonymity

On May 21, 2003, BBC Online reported that child killer Mary Bell had been granted lifelong anonymity.

Following a High Court decision, the identities of Bell and her daughter will now be kept secret to protect them from vigilantes.  Under the terms of a temporary court order, the current identity and whereabouts of Bell and her daughter cannot be disclosed.

Interviewed outside the court following the decision, the sister of Martin Brown, one of
Bell's child victims, said the decision was "a mockery".  "The victims are not the heart of the subject - no one was interested in our family," she said.

Martin's mother June Richardson, interviewed by the BBC in April said: "The best that could happen would be for her to remain anonymous and just vanish and we can get on with our lives."

BBC's Andy Tighe reported that Judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, had "stressed the case was 'exceptional' and it did not mean that a blanket of anonymity would be granted in all cases of this kind."

The BBC report further stated that the main issue the court had to decide was "whether Bell's right to privacy and family life outweighed the competing claims of open justice and press freedom."

Defending her decision, Judge Butler-Sloss said that she had granted the injunctions for different reasons from a similar decision she made in the case of child killers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the killers of James Bulger.

Danny Shaw, the BBC's home affairs correspondent wrote that the Judges decision had been expected and added, "if the High Court had decided not to grant Bell anonymity, it would be one of the legal shocks of the year".

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