A news story which has been impossible to escape my attention over the past week is that of Jon Venables being recalled to prison after breaching his release licence.
The murder of 2 year old James Bulger by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, aged just 10 at the time, in 1993 was a story that shocked the nation and one which is still sure to provoke the strongest of reactions today. The two boys were found guilty of the murder of James Bulger and served an eight year sentence. Upon their release in 2001, both boys were given new identities and a chance to start again, this in itself was a controversial topic, dividing the public.
Now, aged 27, Jon Venables has been recalled to prison yet the exact reasoning as to why is still yet to be confirmed. I think this is shocking, surely it is in public interest for the details to be released and I feel that the withholding of information shows a sufficient lack of empathy towards James Bulger’s mother- Denise Fergus, not only has she had to live with the fact that her son was brutally murdered and his killers given a second chance at life but now she has the worry that Venables may have caused harm to another. This makes me question whether the boys should ever have been given a second chance at all.
Denise Fergus has expressed further anguish over the handling of the case, as Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner, suggested Bulger’s killers should not have been prosecuted, as she believes children aged 10 are too young to be tried in an adult court and this age should be raised to 12. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age at which children can be tried in an adult court is 10 years of age. This is one of the youngest in Europe, bar Scotland where the age is 8.
I feel that in light of the new Venables case, Atkinson’s comments were extremely insensitive and ill-advised and have caused a great deal of grief to Mrs Fergus, who is now having to relive her son’s case from seventeen years ago. Mrs Fergus called for Atkinson to resign or be sacked but no such action has been taken. However, Atkinson’s pleas to increase the age of child prosecution in an adult court were rejected.
Upon reading all the news stories relating to the matter, I have begun to question at what age it is appropriate to prosecute a child. But surely, in the case of Thompson and Venables, they committed a truly horrendous and adult crime, so they should be given the appropriate punishment and prosecuted accordingly. I also question whether it was a mistake to give them a second chance at life, one which Venables seems only too willing to ruin. In my mind, I would agree that aged ten, a child would most definitely know the difference between right and wrong and would have begun to develop an established set of morals, so what would lead two CHILDREN to do something so appalling?
I am also fairly outraged at the lack of information being given to the public over Venables’ breach of licence. As it continues to be kept under wraps, the worst case scenario seems to be assumed. Jack Straw has informed the House of Commons that disclosure of the allegations could prejudice further action against Venables.
Finally I ask myself, how is it there are people willing to defend such a man? Laurence Lee, who defended Venables in the original case said to the BBC, "The pressures on him [Venables] to live this lie and constantly have to lie to make friends and fit in with society, I think are what made him breach his licence." I am hard pressed to find sympathy.