Image by Jessica45
One of James Bulger’s killers is back in prison…again. You don’t know who James Bulger is? On February 12 1993, two eight-year-olds named Jon Venables and Robert Thompson snatched two-year-old James Bulger from his mother after she let go of his hand for a few seconds to pay for shopping. After they kidnapped little James, they lead him down to nearby train tracks, tortured him and threw his battered body onto the tracks. Later that year, Venables and Thompson were found guilty of murdering young James and detained in youth custody indefinitely, where they were released under fake names as adults.
So, what’s happened now? Jon Venables, one of the killers, has been placed back in prison for a second time after he was discovered with child abuse images on his personal computer. Venables was also taken to jail back in 2010 for the same reason, but was released again four years later. Now, three years on from his release, Venables is back in prison for the exact same crime.
For nearly two decades, the United Kingdom’s justice system was too soft on James Bulger’s killers, believing because they were only eight when they killed him, there could be a chance of rehabilitation. Because of this, they received horribly lenient sentences, given the ultimate luxuries, and released into public with fake names and monetary support. Allegedly the latter was to stop vigilante killers, but this is an excuse, because the Venables/Thompson case has been an experiment in rehabilitating young criminals.
It’s not the first time. Back in 1968, between the ages of ten and eleven Mary Bell murdered two young boys called Martin Brown and Brian Howe. For the second murder, she enlisted another girl to help her. She was sentenced to prison indefinitely but released in 1980, aged twenty-three, and continues to live her life under a pseudonym, even marrying and having a daughter. She has managed to have her anonymity extended for life, and even become a grandmother. Were Martin Brown and Brian Howe extended the same privileges? Were they able to have families? No, they were murdered, and it seems like it was for nothing, because Mary Bell faces no true consequences.
While Mary Bell did not re-offend once she became of age, the same cannot be said of Jon Venables, so why does he keep getting second chances? James Bulger didn’t get a second chance. Just because Jon Venables himself was a child when he was a co-conspirator in murder, it does not mean he should be let of the hook. It is not a regular occurrence for children to murder, and for the justice system to keep giving Venables second chances means they are justifying murder, as long as you are under a specific age.
Possessing child pornography and child abuse images is not an innocent crime. By freeing Venables—just for him to commit the same crime half a decade later—means that the courts do not deem it a horrible enough offense. Or are they still trying to rehabilitate the now-thirty-five-year-old? If his behavior has not changed in nearly three decades, then why are officials still trying to “fix” him? Are they embarrassed to admit that Jon Venables is a failed experiment, that despite all their attempts to rehabilitate him, it resulted in nothing?
While co-killer Robert Thompson seems to have stayed out of the public eye (for now), Jon Venables is proof of failure on the part of the UK Justice System. This is not just true of the United Kingdom, but of many First World countries who adopt the same system, where rehabilitation of criminals is of a higher priority than justice for the victims.
The point of prison is not supposed to be luxury. These people have committed major crimes, after all. It makes sense to attempt to rehabilitate criminals of minor or petty crimes; after all, one does not need to be a sociopath to launder money or take illicit drugs. However, there is a big difference between rehabilitating a drug addict and a murderer. Why are they both afforded the same luxuries? For those taking care of Jon Venables to assume his rehabilitation would be as simple as fixing a drug addict: Admit it. You were wrong.
For once, think about the victims. James Bulger wasn’t given any second chances. His parents Ralph and Denise still struggle every day. They lost their son, their marriage crumbled after his murder. How about poor Denise, and what she has to live with everyday?
Why should we care about someone like Jon Venables, who clearly doesn’t feel any remorse for his actions? It’s estimated that £5 million has been spent on his rehabilitation, and what has that lead to? Nothing.
There is a problem with the so-called “justice system” when it cares more about the killers than their actual victims. James Bulger is not the only victim ignored by the courts who were supposed to provide justice for his murder. In Australia, the Parole Board freed rapist Adrian Bayley, only for him to go ahead and murder ABC employee Jill Meagher back in 2012. Numerous other cases have lead to the Parole Board being extensively reviewed, but will anything change? Not likely, until we change the way we view convicted killers and criminals.
When we are more focused on “rehabilitating” and reforming violent killers, rapists and the like, instead of seeking justice for their victims, then is it really a “justice” system anymore? If a child murders somebody, why should their crime be seen as any less heinous than an adult murderer? To get to the point of murdering in cold blood—especially when they are as young as Jon Venables or Mary Bell—means you are not like a regular person. While there may be some chance of rehabilitating these monsters—as seems to be the case of Robert Thompson—for the most part the focus should be on finding justice for the victim. Jon Venables is a convicted killer. Start treating him like one, instead of mollycoddling him like you think he is still eight years old.
For once, remember James Bulger. Otherwise, more innocent lives could be potentially lost.