Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Question For The Executioner


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?


  1. I don't know much about the current euphoria regarding JV returning to prison. I find this whole case quite tragic...as i can remember when it happened back in 93. Im around the same age as him.!! At that age i was more interested in football and playing run outs. lol. I ponder as much as you on this one without any definite opinion. Your right when you ask if its our responsibility to understand the will of the killer? I think but still cant articulate any thoughts worth typing. I just think RIP to the little Bulger boy.



  2. Clearly I'm not alone in finding this case so very difficult to process. Perhaps as Indi says it's because Venables and Thompson are just a year older than me. I remember at the time feeling sorry for them. I remember realising that that was at odds with the rest of the nation's opinion. I remember thinking that they must have had a really horrible childhood and rubbish parents to be able to commit such an attrocious crime. I can't quite articulate how I feel now but it's most certainly not pity - I suppose that's the difference between a child's compassion and an adult's... what? an adult's what?

    That said, this actually has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with any of us except for the possible victims of his alleged crimes. It's boring to keep blaming irresponsible journalism but seriously, the red tops have just gone all out on this. I wonder what they think they're achieving except increased sales?

    I think the reason that so many think they have a right to be judge jury and executioner is because we still think in blanket absolutes. As though we as a society need to decide together what we as a collective think. Candice you ask if he'll be guilty for life. Yes, for some he will be - and that's fine so long as we understand that we don't have to whip ourselves up in a frenzy until we all think the same way. We can't opt in an out of democracy whenever we want to, just as we can't opt in and out of the structures and principles of our legal system whenever we want to.