The teenage crimewave the state could not stop

IT WAS a chance encounter for which Daniel Sweeney paid a heavy price. He was set upon by Darren Cornelius, punched and repeatedly stabbed by the complete stranger in an Edinburgh street in March last year.

The brutal attack at the hands of one of Scotland's most notorious teenagers left the victim scarred for life.

On that fateful day, Daniel Sweeney had the misfortune to be confronted by a self-professed thug who had been out of control since the age of 11, when he first carried out a frenzied stabbing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last night, hours after 18-year-old Cornelius became the youngest criminal in Scotland to receive a lifelong restriction order, politicians demanded an investigation into how he has been handled by the justice system.

At the High Court in Perth, Cornelius was ordered to serve a minimum detention period of five years.

He also become one of the first people in the country to be placed under an order that will require the authorities to monitor him for the rest of his days.

The sentence effectively means Cornelius will remain behind bars until a panel of experts say he is safe for release.

Lord Bracadale said the teenager would stay behind bars while he continued to pose a serious threat to the public.

The judge told him: "For someone your age, you have an extraordinary record for violence."

Cornelius, who was once compared to the killers of Liverpool toddler James Bulger, admitted permanently disfiguring the stranger after carrying out a random and frenzied knife attack on him.

The case has not only sparked demands for an investigation into how Cornelius was dealt with by the youth justice system, but has raised wider questions about Scotland's approach to young offenders.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Councillor Iain Whyte, the convener of Lothian and Borders joint police board, said that the authorities should have taken tougher steps to prevent Cornelius carrying out such a violent attack.

"It certainly seems like the trial judge has taken on board the seriousness of this and made sure Cornelius will not be able to be free to put other people in danger," he said.

"But the court and the children's panel should have looked at this before.

"Why have there been no concerns in the past to protect the public," Mr Whyte asked.

"I think the authorities – the court and the children's panel – should look at exactly why this kind of restriction was not placed on him in the past.

"There should be an investigation as to why the authorities did not look at these matters before, with a view to protecting the public."

Cornelius first hit the headlines in October 2000, when, as an 11-year-old, he carried out a knife attack on a girl of nine.

He abducted the girl from her grandmother's house, stabbed her eight times – narrowly missing the artery in her throat – and left her for dead near the Fountain Park leisure complex in Edinburgh.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He was not prosecuted for attempted murder because he was shown to have a mental age of less than eight, the age of criminal responsibility.

Cornelius was dealt with at a children's panel hearing and ordered to spend 17 months in secure accommodation.

However, he was released after only eight months, before being taken back into care amid allegations he had reoffended.

When he was 15, Cornelius faced five sex charges, but the case collapsed in court due to a lack of evidence.

He denied raping a 12-year-old schoolgirl in the grounds of a church in the Longstone area of Edinburgh in 2004 when he was on home leave from secure accommodation in Paisley.

He also denied a sex attack on another girl – aged 13 at the time – in her home on the west side of the capital.

His first nine-year-old stabbing victim had also alleged she had been raped by Cornelius.

The high-profile case led to calls for a review of the age of responsibility and saw Cornelius compared to James Bulger's killers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bill Aitken, MSP, the Scottish Conservatives' spokesman on justice, echoed Mr Whyte's concerns, describing Cornelius as a "menace" who should have been subject to heavy control.

He also said the case highlighted a need to reconsider the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland.

"In my view, a full inquiry requires to be carried out as to why this individual was not brought under appropriate, much closer supervision earlier on," he said.

"This man is clearly a menace, and I have to ask whether or not the systems are in place to identify and control people like Cornelius, who have a predilection to offend repeatedly and seriously.

"There is something wrong with the system when situations like this can develop, and I do wonder whether or not we need to look at the age of criminal responsibility.

"And certainly we do need to be looking at the way in which people like Cornelius are monitored within the community, otherwise other tragedies will inevitably occur."

On his Bebo website, Cornelius boasts about his taste for violence and associates himself with the late American gangster rapper Tupac Shakur. He wrote: "A go to the gym and am well built. Sum say am mad, sum say am hyper. A say am me. A gd life is a thugs life."

Last night, a spokesman for the Scottish Government refused to comment on the particular case, but said people who received lifelong restriction orders – Cornelius is the seventh to be handed one – would be subjected to "stringent" controls when they were eventually released from jail.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said: "Sentencing is rightly a matter for the courts, and we do not comment on individual cases.

"The justice secretary has repeatedly said that prison should be for serious and dangerous offenders and the Order for Lifelong Restriction is a valuable disposal for the courts when dealing with the fortunately few very high-risk offenders.

"Those who receive such an order will be subject to stringent restrictions for the rest of their lives," the spokesman said.

"The Scottish Prison Service is doing a good job with prisoners in difficult circumstances due to current overcrowding pressures.

"We want to further improve on this, so that prisons can continue to work with serious and violent offenders to reduce their risk. This includes diverting less serious offenders who do not present a risk to the public into tough community sentences.

"By doing so, we give these offenders the chance to turn their lives around and to give something back to the community."


SCOTLAND'S judges have been able to place the most serious violent and sexual offenders on an order for lifelong restriction since June 2006.

The orders apply to all those offences where a life sentence is available, but can also be given to other serious and violent criminals.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Local authorities are responsible for supervising released offenders, who will be monitored for life.

Offenders who are given an order serve prison terms – with minimum punishment parts – as before, but are subject to a lifelong risk management plan that is updated as needed to reflect the offender's risk.

That managed plan has to be approved by the Risk Management Authority, a public body set up to help improve the way dangerous offenders are monitored.

If the behaviour of an offender subject to an order of lifelong restriction gives cause for concern, they can be sent back to prison. They do not have to be convicted of fresh crimes for this to happen.

Other violent criminals to receive lifelong restriction orders include Colin Ross, who savagely battered Marty Layman-Mendonca, a teacher on holiday from the United States, and Steven Malcolm, 20, who raped a care worker at knifepoint.

The introduction of the order for lifelong restriction completed the high-risk offender strategy recommended by the MacLean committee, which examined the treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders.

The inquiry was established amid concern about the public's protection from serious violent and sexual offenders who are freed after serving a fixed term.