09 March 2010

This isn't about justice for James

* taken from the brilliant new 'Northernbloke' blog

This article is an exception, sadly, to the tirade of lynch-mob baiting that pours from every outlet of media reporting at the moment.

"There was something tangibly ghastly about James Bulgers murder. I was 13 when he was killed on a railway line in a grim estate in Liverpool, and I remember it well. How could two kids do the things they did? Snarling adults pounding at steel mesh windows of a police Transit Van, trying to get at two 10 year old boys inside. The incendiary headlines like the "Star" offering 20 grand to "snare the bastards who slaughtered Jamie", and the Expresses "Monsters", and the infamous grainy CCTV footage of the two boys luring him to his fate. We have a strange dual standard about children in the UK. On the one hand, as a glance at any of the obituaries to dead children, whether Baby P, or yet another hit and run victim, will show -there's talk of angels in heaven, and innocent tots full of love. But then we are castigated by Time magazine for deliberately alienating and fearing our bling crusted, and hoodie wearing teenagers. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to say that some of the visceral hatred directed towards them was because they shone a dark and shattered mirror in the publics face about something we don't want to see. Pre teen childhood violence. It lead to much soul searching. How do we square that two boys brutally killed a toddler in such a hideous manner, with the circle of the presumption of childhood innocence, and how they could be judged by adult standard. It created a debate on criminality that has never been adequately settled, and still stirs up strong emotions even today, as we have seen*." 

continued on this link

George said:

I wish I got to read articles of this nature in the press - some form of counter-balance to pre-baiting, the pre-stoking and if the tabloids continue in this vain future-lynching of John Venables.

"...they shone a dark and shattered mirror in the publics face about something we don't want to see. Pre teen childhood violence. It lead to much soul searching."

I was a similar age when it happened, and had many arguments over the attachment of blame. Responsibility, knowing right from wrong, but, for me, the crucial extension to that, the sliding scale of right and wrong. They knew it was wrong - but as ten year-old's - did they know the true consequences. The lifelong pain it causes to his family. Is it possible to rehabilitate that level of apparent apathy. Other European nations refuse to acknowledge criminal responsibility in a criminal court until the age of 16. Before that, the only option is intensive rehabilitation, 'another chance', in essence.

Why do we, as a society, seem to want this murder justified with the potential death of the two children who did it? How would three dead children be a 'better' outcome than one? Spending huge amounts of money - to try the hardest - but truly civilised path of rehabilitation; is a greater reflection on our society. If Jon Venables never spends a day in free society again, I really couldn't care less, I have no sympathy. It's societies reaction that is the key, if we can 'create' ten-year-old murderers, how? What should we change? How should we report it? How should we deal with them?

"It created a debate on criminality that has never been adequately settled, and still stirs up strong emotions even today, as we have seen."

Tough choices. Tough progress. Tough debate. That is the only answer, the hard choices. The hard work. Not, as the tabloids want, the easy, caveman, unthinking, emotional lynch mob. Two more murders - by 'the crowd' - that is progress. Justice. Grab your pick-axe, we have got a cave to build. 


  1. I agree in principle with the linked blog and your comment but my gut feeling is that he has had his chance and if he has messed it up as various reports suggest, he must, as a grown adult now, face the full consequences of his actions in the same manner as any other person up on a possible criminal charge.

    However the thing I keep coming back to is wondering if when he left prison he was abandoned by the rehabilitation system. Did the reported alcohol and drug use go unchecked? I find it hard to imagine that there have been no follow-up visits or counselling since his release and if this is the case, then it seems natural that we have found ourselves here. But if he has had counselling or similar over the years then how have we still ended up at this point?

  2. Because it is pure speculation...

    If he was using drugs, surely that must have been against the conditions of his lifetime release programme?

    If he has committed any crime he should be subject to exactly the same justice as any other adult.

    But with continued anonymity. If he chooses to tell anyone himself, then there is nothing 'society' can do. But like I said before, I have no feelings towards him, it is the reaction of society I was principally commenting on.

  3. Thanks for the write up George. I agree with yourself and Sarah that if he has comited posible new offences then he should of course stand trial for it. I don't think he should be identified following what has happened. A) Because it would damage any potential proceedings against him if jurirs knew who he was, and B) If the kind of lynch mentality (let us remember from that guy in Fleetwood, - against people who are unrelated to the Bulger crime in any way!) we have seen (Now Ed Balls and Maggie Atkinson are under fire) results from coverage of his whereabouts, it doesn't say much for it being in the public interest to disclose his identity. Better for them to be monitered (though it does raise questions about how thorough they are with the stories about Venebles mindset?) and to fade away.