Could the release of Venables have been dealt with better?

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Everyday criminals are locked up. We may feel safe and secure for a short while, but we forget that the key isn’t thrown away, and those criminals will someday be free and roaming the streets once again. Whether it’s from our televisions screens, cinemas or video games, we are presented with the image of the detective or the copper swooping in to save the day, collecting the evidence to send the bad guy to jail for a very long time. What we never see is the twenty years later; the not so happily ever after when the criminal is released.


Where is the line between wrong and right when this day comes? At what point should human rights outweigh the emotional and financial cost to others?

This week the family of James Bulgar were told that one of the men, Jon Venables - who abducted and brutally murdered their two year old son - had been released from prison for the second time. Venables, who is now thirty-one years old, had been secretly released a week previously under his fourth new identity, with suggestions that his protection has cost over one million to the state.

The Bulgars' story, which is known for all the wrong reasons, is an extremely sensitive and controversial one. Even twenty years on people remember the happenings vividly, beholding strong opinions on the matter. Numerous issues surround the Bulgars and the young boys - now men - who took their son away from them.

Many disagree with the state paying such vast amounts of money to protect a man who has ruined the lives of so many. The Bulgar family, who 20 years on are still campaigning the case of James’ death. This is England, and here we believe strongly in the importance of rehabilitation; in this case particularly with both offenders committing such a severe crime at only ten, it is in some regards understandable that the state found it important to ensure Venables had the best chance to change the awful mistakes he made as a child, and avoid the inevitable danger he would be placed in if his identity was found.

Yet this provides no comfort for James’ family - the age of their child’s killer matters nothing to them, because In no way does it make the situation better.

In fact, the grounds - and the very fact that Venables re-offended (for possessing child pornography) - wipes this argument clean out of the water. Venables failed to respect the help he received, blowing his cover to numerous associates and on multiple occasions entering Merseyside where the Bulgar family still live.

Surely anyone who re-offends after committing such a horrific crime does not deserve any more assistance? Someone who does not respect the help they are undeserving of?

The money spent is here nor there when considering the fact that the family were given sparse information an entire week after Venables release. Should the family not have been given a small amount of time to prepare themselves for the release of the man they consider to be “capable of committing another serious crime”?

Instead, they have been left in fear, fuelled with doubt at the police’s ability to keep their child’s murderer away from them. “I have been told that the terms of his parole mean that he must not enter Merseyside. But the probation service didn't monitor him properly last time, so I have no faith in their ability to do that now.” Human rights or no human rights, a family who have been living with the loss of their loved one does not deserve to be left to live in terror.

The question is does the case of Venables release bring to light an issue that needs more consideration and potentially action? 


Suziee Cassels

19 year old Newcastle University student

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