The inquest into Ann Maguire’s death seems to have been a long time coming.
As a young journalist I found inquests one of the most challenging parts of the reporter’s role. No matter how respectful and mindful of people’s feelings the coroner was (and there are some excellent coroners out there) it is still picking over the remains of someone’s, often tragic, final moments.
But despite being a silent witness to so much raw grief, confusion or anger I firmly believe that the country would be a poorer place without public inquests.
Journalists have a duty to show sensitivity in reporting the results of inquests. Sometimes a death can be unexplained, or the result of someone taking their own life, and there is little to be learned in reporting the details, and such inquests should just be a matter of public record.
At other times the inquest verdict, and the coroner’s comments can shape how our society works. So, when a teacher is stabbed to death in a school by a pupil, in the middle of a lesson the family, friends, pupils, staff and the wider public do want to know what happened, and if any change is needed to prevent it happening again.
In his ruling Coroner Kevin McLoughlin’s words were strong. He said social media sites such as Facebook should introduce contracts to make parents responsible for their children’s messaging and he will suggest social media platforms require any 13 to 18-year-olds have a named parent on their Facebook account application.
But I wonder though just how realistic this would be. How could any parent really be responsible for what their 16-year-old was thinking or saying on social media? It’s really too late to put the Facebook genie back in the bottle.