Friday, March 12, 2010

The Jon Venables issue

To this day I have very vivid memories of the news coverage surrounding the abduction and murder of James Bulger.

I don’t think anyone who has heard any of the details of his brutal death could forget them - such are the things of nightmares.

Since then, that bright and chirpy two year old baby from Liverpool has often been in my thoughts - not least when I became a mammy myself and had the uneviable task of trying to keep a very active toddler close by me every time we went out of the house.

Every mother knows that fear - the heart-stopping, gut wrenching moment of terror when your child is no longer in your sight and when you have no idea where they might be or who they might be with. No mother cares, in those moments, if she makes a buck eejit of herself screaming her son or daughter’s name out as loud as she can until she finds them. My best fish-wife moments have been when the boy has wandered off in Tesco, because even if we know that such things are statistically unlikely you can’t help but remember James Bulger. I’m pretty sure his mother never imagined he would meet such an horrendous death.

His life was cut short in a brutal and violent manner and what made it all the more shocking (as if it were not shocking enough) were that those responsible for inflicting such injuries on this poor toddler were just children themselves.

Unless you happen to live under a rock, you may be aware that James Bulger’s killers - or at least one of them - has been in the news again.

Jon Venables is back in custody. According to sources close to both Jon Venables and the other killer Robert Thompson, it is thought Venables would have been the least likely to reoffend.

However he is now facing serious charges - allegedly relating to child pornography. Well, the vigilantes are out in force. A Facebook group outing a completely innocent man as being James Bulger’s killer has been set up. There are cries all over the country to name him, and shame him and publicly flog him - except that flogging wouldn’t be good enough for the likes of him etc etc.

Let me state here and now I have little sympathy for Venables. My sympathy lies directly and completely at the door of James’ family who were robbed of their gorgeous baby boy.

But I find it outrageous that these boys - above the age of criminal responsibility when they committed their crimes - served only eight years before they were released. I find that as outrageous for Venables’ and Thompson’s own safety and peace of mind as I do for the Bulger family who must have been sickened to their very core at such an early release.

Now I’m not saying that the children - as they were then - should have been hung, or locked away for their rest of their days but how can a child who has spent their formative years in prison possibly be expected to reintegrate into society normally?

How is a child who brutally murdered a baby expected to a completely reformed character by their 18th birthday?

How can the rest of the public have faith that that person - regardless of the age they were when they committed their crime - will go on to be a productive member of society? How can anyone be sure that they will not hurt another child?

I know this is a tricky situation. I know that the fact Venables and Thompson were children themselves when they abducted and murdered James Bulger complicates things. I know that there is an argument out there that no one is born evil and that these children themselves but have had a very twisted childhood themselves. A part of society argues that we should feel sorry them - maybe not as much as but close - as we do for James Bulger and his family.

I can’t make that leap. Maybe it is naive of me but I can’t understand how any human being cannot reach the age of 10 without knowing the basics of morality. Thou shalt not kill is quite a basic principle to live by, is it not?

In any case it is my opinion that James Bulger’s killers cannot suddenly live a normal life after eight years behind bars when they never lived a normal life before they went to prison. Harsh as it may sound - I don’t think they should have been released from prison - especially not at such a vulnerable age as 18.

They should be there - and indeed Venables is back there now - and they should stay there. There are crimes - regardless of who committed them - which are beyond rehabilitation. There are crimes so horrendous that only a life sentence will suffice.

I admit there are no easy answers and I have tied myself up in knots trying to see all sides of the argument but there remains a large part of me that feels just a little better knowing that one of these two killers is back behind bars.

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