Why Brianna Ghey's killers, Girl X and Boy Y, haven't been named

While a judge has now confirmed the two killers will be named after sentencing, throughout the trial they have been referred to as Girl X and Boy Y. Credit: Family handout

After both were found guilty, a judge has announced the media will be able to name the two teenagers who murdered Brianna Ghey on the day they are sentenced.

The schoolchildren, who stabbed 16-year-old Brianna 28 times in Culcheth Linear Park near Warrington, have been known as Girl X and Boy Y throughout the trial - having been granted anonymity.

The legal order was put in place after the then 15-year-olds were charged with murder in February 2022, and due to their ages has remained in place ever since, making it illegal to name the pair.

So why was the order put in place, and why will it not be lifted until 2 February 2024?

Brianna Ghey was attacked in Linear Park in Culcheth in February. Credit: PA

The order

Section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which came into force in April 2015, allows a criminal court to prevent the publication of anything that would identify that young person as a defendant, until that person reaches 18. 

It includes details such as their name, address, the school they attend or a picture of them.

If a publication did not follow reporting restrictions, they would be committing a criminal offence and contempt of court.

Why is it in place?

The order was imposed by a judge at the pair's first appearance at Liverpool Crown Court, before the case was transferred to be heard in Manchester.

These rules are in place to prevent defendant's from having their reputation tarnished for life, especially if they are eventually found not guilty.

Had one or both of the teens been found not guilty, their anonymity would have remained in place by law.

In 2015, another murder trial was aborted after hundreds of posts on social media named the two teenage defendants.

This cost the public tens of thousands of pounds and delayed justice for the family of the murder victim.

What did the judge say in Brianna's trial?

Mrs Justice Yip, who presided over the trial of Girl X and Boy Y, ruled that both teenagers can be named only after sentencing, which is due to take place on 2 February 2024.

If the reporting restrictions had not been lifted, members of the press would have had to wait until Boy Y and Girl X were 18 before they were legally allowed to name them.

Why won't it be lifted until 2 February 2024?

Mrs Justice Yip lifted the banning order but imposed a stay, until the defendants are sentenced on 2 February, when they can then be publicly named by the media. Both face a mandatory life sentence for murder.

Mrs Justice Yip ruled: “There is a strong public interest in the full and unrestricted reporting of what is plainly an exceptional case.”

She added: “The public will naturally wish to know the identities of the young people responsible as they seek to understand how children could do something so dreadful.

“Continuing restrictions inhibits full and informed debate and restricts the full reporting of the case.”

In coming to her decision, the judge also said it was “inevitable” they would be named eventually as the order banning their identification would have lapsed in 2025, when they turned 18.

“Continuing the reporting restrictions until the defendants turn 18 would, in my view, represent a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the freedom of the press,” she ruled.

Has this been used before?

In other infamous cases involving killers under the age of 18, similar restrictions applied.

The killers of James Bulger, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, were initially referred to as Child A and Child B.

Child killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson (right). Credit: PA

After they were convicted, judge Mr Justice Morland allowed the boys to be named.

He said: "I considered that the public interest over-rode the interests of the defendants."

While their names are now public, the danger to their lives from vigilante action meant they were both given new identities.

In 2001, shortly after they turned 18, the High Court made an injunction preventing the media from publishing their new identities, effectively granting them lifelong anonymity.

The court order is meant not only to protect Venables and Thompson but also those members of the public who have been incorrectly identified as being either of them.

In 2019, a woman was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay £10,000 after she published information and photographs online of Jon Venables.

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