Am I alone in feeling a little concerned about the level of moral panic gripping the nation at the news that Jon Venables has returned to prison? It's not so much that the media are speculating with sensationalist reporting, but an unease that this moral panic is steadily evolving into a public trial by a terrified and vengeful British people. Jubilantly manipulated by the media. Speculation is serving as evidence and the government is being forced to defend its silence.
Should I be surprised? Venables, along with Robert Thompson committed one of the most horrifying crimes in British history when they kidnapped, tortured and murdered two-year old James Bulger. It shocked the nation, not just because of its violence but also by the age of the perpetrators. At ten-years old Venables and Thompson became the youngest convicted murderers in modern British history. Just as Myra Hindley had violated the purity of womanhood, Venables and Thompson obliterated innocence by proving that children are capable of cold-blooded murder. It signified the commencement of society's decay. Or at least that's what we thought.
So as new fears refresh old wounds, I'm pondering....Is Venables guilty for life? Are some crimes simply unforgivable? Can we justify punishment without rehabilitation?
Of course, the value of rehabilitation in society has enormous consequences for the criminal justice system. What if the will of the people is simply to punish, should the criminal justice process be adapted? Media trials; indefinite life sentences and capital punishment? That may allay our fears but does it keep us safe? I'm sure that incarcerating Venables for life would not have stopped the Edlington brothers from torturing two young boys. I suspect that these motivations can be found in their experience of relationships, family, education....
So I guess my final question is: If it is not our desire then should it be our responsibility to understand the will of the killer?
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