In Leeds on the 28th April a fifteen year old boy murdered his teacher by repeatedly stabbing her in the back. He did this in the middle of a lesson, with little warning. She eventually died from her injuries.
The boy’s name is Will Cornick, now aged sixteen he has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison; that’s a minimum of twenty years.
As expected the press have reacted by labelling him as ‘psychotic’, ‘evil’, ‘deranged’ and ‘psychopathic’.
The interesting thing is that after extensive time with psychiatrists it has been concluded that he is neither psychotic nor psychopathic. The current evidence seems to suggest that he has an emerging personality disorder. What’s incredibly interesting is that Will Cornick, whilst certainly displaying the lack of remorse and empathy that we associate with ‘psychopaths’, completely lacks other indicators.
The main thing that seems to be confusing people is that he had a seemingly happy home life with supportive parents- so supportive that they stood with him in the dock during the court case.
He was a clever, quiet but enthusiastic boy who seems to have slipped under the radar for most of his life. He’d never hurt anyone before and had no history of mental health problems or violence. He was as normal as you or I.
As well as this his name has been made public- something that is certainly not standard procedure- for him ‘life’ will mean life. He’ll never be able to get away from what he did, he’ll always be the evil, remorseless, psycho killer.
The judge who chose to make Cornick’s name public stated that he did so as he felt that it would be in the best interests of the public. In doing so he’s assured that his boy will never be able to move past this. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a good or bad thing, I’m just stating the facts.
The public attitude towards this case has been overwhelming, maybe I just feel like that because I live right next door to Leeds, but everywhere I look his mug-shot seems to be staring out at me.
What I really want to address about this case is the way that Will Cornick has been struck off by society. He’s been labelled a ‘psychopath’ and a monster. I’m not saying that what he did was in any way excusable, I’m just saying that we’ve written off a sixteen year old boy, we’ve put him in a box and tried to convince ourselves that he’s ‘evil’.
Guess what? I don’t think evil exists. I think that we’re terrified of this boy, and we’re not terrified of him because of the things that he’s done- we’re terrified because he was ‘normal’, he could have been our son, our brother, our friend, our nephew, our cousin, our boyfriend. So we label him as a ‘psycho’ because we need to assure ourselves that he’s not like us, he’s one of the mental people and we could never, ever know anyone like him.
People are baffled at the fact that he came from an apparently happy home. Right, because only people who spent their childhoods being beaten and raped can ever have any kind of mental health problem? Only people who’ve exhibited violent tendencies in the past can commit murder? Only ‘mental people’ can kill others in cold blood?
I have no doubt that there’s more to this boy than meets the eye, especially in terms of this mental health. What angers and frustrates me is that whilst we claim to live in one of the most enlightened and advanced countries in the world we still think that it’s okay to condense someone into the word ‘psycho’.
We are absolving ourselves of any kind of social responsibility. He has mental health problems, maybe the government should be putting more funding into the mental health services so that people with problems can be spotted and treated before they escalate?
Oh, of course, silly me… that’s not how things work at all. We just need to label him as ‘evil’, convince ourselves we’re good people who wouldn’t do anything like that and move on with our lives.
He may have emerging mental health problems but Will Cornick is not a psychopath. He has a good family and a good education. In those respects he reminds me of a lot of my friends… and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we’re so scared of him.
’til next time,