The teenager who killed seven-year-old Katie Rough has been given a life sentence.
But she could be released from detention after five years by a judge who said: “The utter tragedy and devastation of all this needs no emphasis.”
Mr Justice Soole told the 16-year-old, who was 15 when she smothered and knifed Katie Rough, she would not be released until she was no longer deemed to be dangerous.
He was speaking on Friday (November 24) at Leeds Crown Court as he sentenced the teenager to a life sentence with a minimum term of five years.
Katie Rough died after she was smothered by the 16-year-old girl, who cannot be named and was 15 at the time, and then slashed with a Stanley knife in January.
Katie was found with severe lacerations to her neck and chest on a playing field next to Alness Drive in Woodthorpe, York. Attempts to revive her failed.
Clutched a soft toy
The defendant, who admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility at a previous hearing, appeared by video-link at Leeds Crown Court as Katie’s family looked on from the jury box.
The teenager sat with her head down, clutching a soft toy, throughout the hearing.
She was flanked on screen by a court usher and a youth team leader who confirmed the girl’s name when she was asked to identify herself by the judge, Mr Justice Soole.
The judge told her: “The gravity of the offence of killing a small child speaks for itself.”
He said: “The level of danger to the public is high.
“In the circumstances of your continuing silence, the critical question is whether there is any reliable estimate as to how long that danger will continue.”
Utter tragedy and devastation
The judge told the teenager that “what precisely” happened on the field “is known only to you”.
He said: “Further and most disturbing evidence points to this being planned and based on delusional thoughts.”
The judge told the court: “The utter tragedy and devastation of all this needs no emphasis.”
And he said: “In this truly exceptional case, I have concluded that it is necessary to impose a sentence of detention for life.”
Experts can’t agree
The packed court heard how experts still cannot agree on what is the girl’s mental disorder, and how long it will take before she can no longer be considered a danger.
The judge was told this was because she had failed to engage with doctors.
Some psychiatrists have explored whether she was suffering from a depressive disorder and there has also been a concern she is suffering from an emerging schizo-type personality disorder.
Mr Johnson said one expert had said: “There is no clear means of protecting the public other than continued detention.”
He explained to the court how his client had not engaged with the experts and asked the judge to conclude that she was “unwilling because she was unable”.
Nicholas Johnson QC, defending, said: “We submit that (the girl) was fundamentally driven to this killing by her mental disorder. All the experts are of that view.”
He said: “The defendant is, as yet, unable to address psychologically the causes of her behaviour.”
Katie’s father wiped his eyes as he left court with her mother, Alison, and many other members of their family.
Covered in blood
Katie was found with severe lacerations to her neck and chest on a field in the Woodthorpe area of York on January 9 and did not respond to frantic attempts to revive her.
But a judge heard earlier this year that she actually died from being smothered by her teenager attacker.
At that earlier hearing, the court heard that the teenager was found standing in Alness Drive, covered in blood and carrying a blood-stained Stanley knife as she rang 999 to tell police what she had done.
The judge was told she may have been trying to prove Katie was not a robot as she had “irrational beliefs”.
He heard that the girl began suffering from mental health problems more than a year before the killing.
Prosecutors said she had reported delusional thoughts as well as depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
They said the girl had talked of being convinced that people “weren’t human and were robots”.
The previous hearing was told that the girl became distressed when one doctor asked her later “whether she killed Katie to test whether she was a robot”.
At the last hearing Nicholas Johnson QC said it may be that his client was “driven by the irrational belief (Katie) may not have been human and needed proof of this”.
He said the teenager had thoughts that people around her “may not be human and may be controlled by a higher and hostile force”.
The barrister said his client had posted a picture on social media two days before the killing with a concerning message.
He said: “She was clearly crying out for help and support.”
The girl denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility at the hearing in July.
This plea was accepted by the prosecution.