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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 16:47 GMT
Should James Bulger's killers be freed early?

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the killers of toddler James Bulger did not receive a fair trial. The former Home Secretary Michael Howard was also criticised by the court for raising the minimum time to be served by the boys from eight years to 15 years.

Have the boys served their time? Should they be released from prison early or do you think they deserve to serve out their full sentence? Should the practices for trying children now be changed? Here we have a party politician pronouncing an indefinite sentence. Why? Possibly because of the enormous amount of media coverage given to the case and the inevitable knock on affect that has on public opinion, Most murderers know they will be out after 15 years or whatever-it-is. Those who murder in the name of loyalism or republicanism can expect to get out after about 5 years. Where's the consistency?
Tim, UK

If the UK did not give them the rights they were legally entitled to during their trial then they should be retried, this time correctly. Despite the appalling nature of the crime, they did deserve to be treated without prejudice. As for should they be released early-no, not early, but in accordance with the sentence given to them after a fair trial.
Andrew Roberts, USA

What people should try and remember is that these boys had tried to abduct another child before they managed to entice James away from his mother. They obviously had a plan and they were determined to act it out. There is no way that the press or public in this country will ever let the anger at what Thompson and Venables did die down. And quite rightly so. At the age of 10, if a child cannot tell the difference between right and wrong - at such a level as murder -then it is surely the parents and the supporting network of teachers etc that we should look to for answers. There is no way that this sort of violence and abuse has just appeared out of the must have manifested itself in other ways - abuse of pets, brothers or sisters etc. I can't see how the pair can possibly ever live a normal life now...their names are known, their faces are known and they will never be able to account for their missing years in a detention centre without letting prospective employers know exactly what sort of character they are. Their lives are ruined and they will have to live with the fact they have robbed a mother and father of their son. They should serve the full sentence, and be transfered to an adult prison when they turn 18. if they survive that, it should then be punishment enough
H, North Wales

Justice in this country is not supposed to be retributive. If they are no longer a threat to others they should be as eligible for release as anyone else. A child of ten is not responsible for his or her actions because their minds are insufficiently developed to have a FULL appreciation of the consequences of their actions. In my opinion those advocating the death penalty for them are mad or as morally bankrupt as those they want to kill. What happens when a mistake is made or a corrupt copper perverts the course of justice? At least the Birmingham 6 were released - hard to do that when you've killed them.
Owen, UK

Free them? They should rot in hell. This was not an accident but a pre-meditated crime. please do not tell me they did not know what they were doing. 10 years old may not be an age of responsibilities such as paying tax, and having children, but they certainly are aware of sins such as stealing and murder from a very early age. What they did to poor Jamie was evil. Noone stops to think about the Bulger family, yet the European court bend over backwards to make sure those boys get a "fair trial" and even award 44,000 between them. If this is what being in Europe is all about, then I do not want to be part of such injustice. i hope that others will agree with me.
Kate Singleton, England

I can't believe what I'm reading here! Do you people remember that you are living in a democracy? Go read your own law books, the sentence was illegal. The European Court wasn't commenting on the verdict, just the procedure used in the sentence. The law *absolutely* must be the same for *everybody*, or the whole system crumbles. If you don't like the idea of a European body to oversee the impartial use of the judicial system, i invite you to move to a totalitarian country, that has no laws. You can not change the laws in hindsight. You *must* conduct sentencing according to the laws. Otherwise, the laws are useless.
Kallew Helenius, Finland

Give them another trial, but for heaven's sake, why would one let them go free? To kill again?
Cheryl Maloney, Oregon, USA

What purpose does the never-ending imprisonment of these children serve? It doesn't help Jamie; it certainly makes things worse for all those connected with the two boys; it doesn't act as a greater deterrent (the boys' treatment is already enough to deter anyone who is capable of being deterred). The calls for greater and harsher punishment merely help us salve our own guilt at being part of a society that lets crimes like this happen. Let's stop the witch-hunt and move forward rationally.
Sarah Monroe, UK

We must however face up to the fact that they were only ten at the time, an age which we do not expect people to be held responsible in any other circumstances
Phil Hall, UK
It is quite understandable that Jamie's family should feel bitter and repulsed at the thought of the early release of these two young men. It is also easy to see why the rest of society should alienate them and deny the considerations normally given to children at their age. We must however face up to the fact that they were only ten at the time, an age which we do not expect people to be held responsible in any other circumstances. If we come to the conclusion that they are responsible for this crime in the same way as an adult then we have to question the whole principle upon which we treat children as developing people and make allowances in times of error. As to the question of their early release I think that the main consideration should be whether they remain a danger to society. In the end they will have to be carefully assessed by Psychiatrists who will have to try and decide what was happening in the minds of these two boys and that terrible day. Whatever provoked it, it must be identified and understood before they can be released.
Phil Hall, UK

I am sick and tired of people making excuses for all kinds of murderers and depraved humans. The question is ... Did they kill the boy or not? If they didn't then set them free. If they did, then by jolly, string 'em high.
Abadanda, USA

As a father of two sons (one of them 2 years of age) I have no sympathy whatsoever for these two murderers. Far too much emphasis is placed on the human rights of the criminal, what of the human rights of the victim? These two criminals (and anyone who commits this type of crime) robbed, not only James and his family, but society as a whole of the potential James had. Talk of 'rewarding' the murderers of this child through compensation is an absolute digrace and goes against everything decent.
Gary Hart, UK

They should not be treated any differently than any other killers. They have served six years and if most murderers are released after 10 years then so should these boys. The purpose if incarceration is punishment and rehabilitation. They should not be kept inside forever but released when it is appropriate. OK, so they did kill James Bulger but surely we're being as bad as they if we recommend the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Matt Stephenson, United Kingdom

If they are released early - and I very much doubt that that would be right - the whole family should be given government help to settle in a different country. Then the boys could prove that they are reformed (if they are)and can lead a life that is normal and hopefully good. if they stay here: no College would take them without their past history being known, no employer offer them a job etc etc. They might be driven back into crime.
Lore Meredith, UK

Anyone that has any doubt about whether the killers of James Bulger did it should read a book by Paul Britton called 'The Jigsaw Man'. Paul Britton was the Criminal Psychologist the police got in to help catch the killers and then to understand why they did it. The boys concerned knew what they had done and understood the court process. They should not be set free until they have finished their sentences for this crime.
Jane, England

I don't believe punishment should be wholly based on retribution and it is especially emotive when children are involved. There really is no easy answer to the problem of how to deal with those who commit terrible crimes so young - especially considering that the media circus surrounding the case has made Venables and Thompson marked men for life.
Vic, Scotland

The European Court of Human Rights has pointed to a problem with British justice; that is the arrangement whereby a POLITICIAN sometimes must decide upon the length of a sentence. This power should be handed to the judiciary. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Michael Howard, whether or not he should have had the power to do so, decided upon a custodial sentence that was entirely appropriate for the killers of James Bulger. The possibility of compensation and early release for them is very difficult to accept.
Wilson Snook, UK

The boys should spend a lot more than 15 years in jail, those who are talking about ten year-old boys don't know about murder, I think even eight year-olds know it well. I knew it is wrong even before when I was seven, so don't talk rubbish about their age, they should pay for what they did!
Ishwar Vajracharya, Australia

They should NOT be released early and to give them compensation is disgusting, especially when the crche that was set up where children could be left safely in the shopping centre has had to be closed because of lack of funding.
Clare, UK

I am the same age as the murderers and the thought of one of them being able to be one of my peers scares me. At 10 these boys knew what they were doing and should face a punishment equal to the crime. It maybe that their trial was unfair and there is very little public sympathy for them. But they murdered someone and need to made to remember that for the rest of their lives and if it isn't because they are in jail then it will be because they are living outside in fear having no life at all who would employ them etc. How much would it cost the taxpayer just to keep them safe. James family needs closure, having this dragged up all the time is not fair they already lost their baby they don't need to have to face his killers. i just hope and pray that they find some peace in all this.
Anna, Scot in USA

Lets not forget what these two murderers did - first they forced a child to be lead to his own death and then murdered him in a brutal and calculated manner - 15 years is not long enough!!!
Michael Canny, UK

I'm horrified that people want to see these boys killed for their crime. It's a small wonder why Britain is becoming an uncaring, barbaric country where nobody has little moral standard for human life or how we serve justice to each other. Everybody seems to blame the boys for the murder. Should we not question our social structure within Britain and ask where did this country fail them? . We are entering a new millennium, but we still practice the mentality of the dark ages.
Lee Davies, UK

The pair should never be let out for what they did to that child. That they were still children when committing this act makes the whole thing even more disgraceful and horrific.
Matthew Illsley, England
No they should not be released early. Even 15 years is not enough. The youth of today are far more aggressive and street-wise than in my day and they knew exactly what they were doing when they led that little boy away to murder him. If it wasn't for the cameras those boys would have got away with it. I am sure they were treated kindly by everyone concerned during their trial which more than you can say of their treatment of the little 2 year old boy who could not fight back
Hilda, Cyprus

A politician (i.e. Michael Howard in this case) should not decide the punishment for offenders, a judge should do this. What happened to the separation of powers in England? Michael Howard certainly did not do a favor for Jamie Bulgers' parents by giving the offenders a higher, but illegal sentence. He should have realized that; it is his fault that the offenders will be released earlier. Sure, what these boys did was cruel and I think they deserve a sentence higher than 8 years, but a judge should have given this sentence.
N. Eggen, The Netherlands

It is about time real justice prevailed. How much longer must victims (and their families) suffer the nonsense of what is passed off as 'justice' in Britains (Europes?) Courts today. One only has to see compensation paid to murderers to see the farcical nature of it all. James' killers should be kept in confinement for the rest of their lives, they knew what they were doing and must pay for it.
John, England

Minors are considered minors because they are considered to still be developing both physically and mentally. To say that a ten year old knows the meaning of murder and its repercussions is speculative at best. How many of us remember what we were like at ten? Certainly this is a terrible crime the two boys committed. But it would never even occur to an overwhelming majority of ten year olds that committing such a crime might be fun. There was a screw loose somewhere and before we write these two boys off so blithely, it might be beneficial to society to find out what exactly contributes to a situation like this.
Roy, USA

I love the etheric ideals of people like Mr. John Claro: "It's time for return to humanity, love, not hatred". As long as it concerns others, it is forgiveness and humanity all over; however, if their own child is murdered or their own wife raped by an inhumane perpetrator, these people's opinions tend to reverse quite suddenly. The capacity to judge the seriousness of a crime can not be denied to any ten-year old, however many more human rights they may be bespoken compared to their victim.
Ed Damvelt, Mexico

Releasing these boys now would serve no purpose other than to show that our moral standards are slipping. I was bullied in junior school, and certainly bullied those younger than myself in schoolyard games, but never would any of us dreamed of using the repulsive violence shown in this case. We were made aware of the difference between right and wrong at a very early age and certainly knew, from the age of six or so, that to take life, any life, was wrong. Society seems to me to be bending over backwards to find excuses for any one individual's behaviour; it is not that individual's fault - we are all guilty. I say it is time to re-establish the responsibility of the family (family pride?) for the actions and behaviour of their offspring.
John Oakley, Greece

Much has been said about the horrific act these two 10 year old children committed but not much about the society that bred them, the schools that educated them, and the parents that raised them. What kind of society breeds this type of human being, what sort of culture is being festered in Liverpool that lets this develop and what sort of government (local and central) is overseeing it. I am totally exasperated as to the act that these two lads committed, the sentence or the ruling of the ECHR makes the headlines, but surely the most important issue is that this never ever happens again. Without investigations into the society that breeds this type of culture, can we be sure that it will not.
Andrew Thain, Australia, Sydney

The hypocrisy of people in this case is incredible. We feel revulsion at the excesses of the Victorian era justice system, so eloquently depicted by Dickens. Yet people have called for these boys, and that is what they were and still are, to be dealt with in a manner that would place it in the heart of those excesses. We are drifting back to a system where children are hung, transported and abused. What have we learned? Why do we not just follow the same system of justice they have in Saudi Arabia? What those boys did was awful. It was a horrible event in which nobody won. Everybody lost and suffered and it seems as if we learned nothing from this event but how to hate and despise. I don't have the answer to this situation but I know that if we cannot fix this problem in a way that constructive, we will end up continuing to destroy ourselves and our societies.
Sejanus, Australia

Absolutely the judges even remember what these boys did. It was absolutely disgusting, to take the life of an innocent young child with so much potential is unforgivable, not to mention appalling. If it was up to me, I would have them killed (lethal injection) all very legal in the U.S.
Sian , UK/USA

It is beyond me how two boys who viciously and repulsively attacked and killed in cold blood should be allowed to appeal in a court that deals in "Human Rights". What about Jamie's Human Rights? There is no appeal for him...
Alex, Scotland

Being the father of a toddler myself I find this case incredibly disturbing. I am absolutely appalled that these offenders have not only been paid but may possibly be eligible for early release. I say let them rot away behind bars until they die. Given the brutality of the murder of this helpless toddler I doubt they are capable of remorse, regret perhaps that they got caught and have to pay their dues. The violent nature of the atrocities committed clearly indicate that these killers would have been an unwelcome cancer on society, and if not caught would have most likely been well on their way to an ever increasing legacy of sadistic and brutal behaviour. I have absolutely no sympathy for them and expect them to pay the price.
Jesse H, USA

What a scary forum. I certainly wouldn't want my child meeting some of the above respondents alone in a dark alley. Many of these comments seem to prove that the "eye for an eye" argument is most often used as an excuse for others to display their own violent natures.
T Maguire, Canada

I feel that the trial was fair and reached the correct verdict. However, a child of ten is not entirely the source of his own actions. Do not his parents, his teachers, his neighbours, and perhaps the mob-like society and media (who have viciously hounded these boys), share some responsibility? I don't excuse or exonerate this terrible crime for which the boys deserved detention and punishment. However, I also believe they deserve rehabilitation and should be released when it is found that they have genuine remorse and are not deemed to be a danger to others and that this decision can only rightly be made by a psychiatrist and judge as opposed to the mob or the media. Sincere sympathies to Denise Fergus; my son is the age that James would have been and I feel deeply for her understandable distress
Helen, UK

Absolutely not. They should have been given a life sentence. What would go through their minds to deliberately kill and torture an innocent two year old child? Can you imagine what their minds are capable of now?
T Rolland, Canada

Definitely no early release.
Gifford La Rose, Canada

The problem here is that politics became involved with justice and the second sentence was a reaction to public opinion. A bit like the lynch mob ethics. However even when the prison sentence is over I wouldn't like to be in these children's shoes. Their lives will be worth spit and that will be the ultimate punishment; ex-communication from the rest of society.
Mark, Ireland

They got more of a fair trial than Jamie did. And while all this discussion of responsibility is going on what actions have been taken against Venables and Thompsons parents? Tough on crime and the causes of crime? Fine now take some action against their parents and stop Jamie's parents having to suffer anymore. They should only be released after they can prove they are no longer a threat to others
Chris, Australia

I think it is an absolute outrage that these two boys should be appealing to the European Courts of Human Rights, they took little Jamie's away the day they led him to his death. I say bring back capital punishment. Of course, they knew right from wrong!
Tracey Reynolds, United Kingdom

I find the ruling of the court unacceptable. These boys were old enough to realise what they were doing when they murdered Jamie. There is a difference between accidental death and premeditated, this was premeditated and therefore they should not have any human rights. Jamie's human rights were violated when they took him away and did what they did. These boys should never be considered for early release.
Yvonne Gregory, England

Nice to see the lynch mob haven't gone away! The point of a trial is to find the truth. Any child, sitting on a raised platform, unable to understand the proceedings will feel intimidated and will not reveal all that is needed to be known. That is an insult to James Bulger's parents. They should have been tried in a less intimidating atmosphere where the result would have been the same and there would have been no leave to appeal to the ECHR.
Simon Atkinson, UK

Why so much talk about mercy for these two sadistic and callous killers? Were they merciful to James and his family? The fact that they were still children when they murdered that little boy makes no difference. They weren't toddlers and it wasn't some kind of accident; they were older boys who took full advantage of their superior strength and power in that situation. They were old enough to know what they were doing and therefore they are old enough to take the consequences. If the law lets them escape appropriate punishment then the law is an ass. Let's protect our children, not sentimentalise them.
Clare, Scotland

Sentencing shouldn't be left in the hands of public and tabloid opinion, unless we give in to a system of "Mob-Rule".
John Southan, Netherlands
Although I believe they SHOULD serve the whole of their 15 year sentence because I personally believe they deserve it, it must be left to the judiciary to decide sentencing. This must be independent from public pressure or politicians who are always susceptible to it. The outrage of the general public to the killing is totally natural and deserved. However the role of the courts and the law is to protect those who are convicted from the natural gut reaction of the public to these instances. The judiciary is there to provide a just solution and a proportionate response to the crime. Sentencing shouldn't be left in the hands of public and tabloid opinion, unless we give in to a system of "Mob-Rule". The ECHR were right to bring the procedural flaws to the attention of the UK. We must never belittle the importance of a fair-trial.
John Southan (Law student), Brit in the Netherlands

This decision is wrong. They knew what they were doing when they killed the boy, now they should live the rest of there life behind bars like any other killer.
Ross Dracup, England

Frankly there have been so many death threats against Robert Thompson and Jon Venables that releasing them now would not only be another kick in the guts to Ralph Bulger and Denise Fergus, but dangerous for the boys themselves. How many police officers-at the taxpayer's expense- would be required to protect them? If any kind of "compassion" should be shown to these murderers, it should be to leave them inside for life for their own protection.
Kenneth Henry, UK

I think that they should have been tried in closed court with a judge and without the public. I think it is unfair to keep moving the "tariff" around so they don't know how long they will have to serve. I say we clarify the situation ... they should spend the rest of their lives behind bars. All murderers should. I would like to send good wishes to Jamie's parents, family and friends. It must be awful to have his death constantly dragged through the media like this. I truly hope you find some peace in your lives.
Fiona, UK

I feel that this decision is an outrage, as the parent of child a year younger than James Bulger I remember the revulsion I felt when this crime was committed, it is even more shocking that these two boys have been "paid" for their handy work. I suspect that both of these boys will never make a useful contribution to society and cases like these serve to re-enforce calls for capital punishment where an appeal would be irrelevant, and in this case rightly so. It is always amazing to me how quickly people forget these terrible things.
Gareth, England/USA

Clearly the boys did a terrible wrong, clearly they should be punished and some attempt at rehabilitation should be made - they were very young - is one lost life not enough - would you rather 3 children died? It would appear the idea of Human Rights annoys a lot of people - who should be thankful they are not alive in War time - a captured prisoner of war, despite having killed his foe, was still expected to be treated reasonably when captured - the hope of rehabilitation is what makes us different from wild animals. When it is time (I believe a year or two) they should - if judged fit - be released into society. This should not be seen as a red rag to the media either - all - especially newspapers - should leave them alone - because don't imagine they won't have to live with the reality of what they have done for the rest of their lives - nothing to envy.
Gareth , UK

It is ludicrous to suggest that a ten-year-old does not know that it is wrong to kill, abuse and torture. These two must serve their sentences. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.
Niall Gooch, UK

Sentences should never be retrospective in relation to Criminal law. One of the reasons for having maximum sentences is so that people know where they stand with the law if they commit a crime. Do we really want a society that hands out punishment in relation to the amount of public sympathy generated by the press? If so the Law would truly be an ass - a mere puppet of the press and politicians. We may ask the former Home Secretary how he justifies his decision in relation to the separation of powers laid out by our constitution?
James Burchett, UK

The trial of Venables and Thompson was a farce driven by the bloodlust of the mob and the press. The idea that the law can be changed will-you, nill-you to impose a special penalty on people the mob takes against is an insult to the fundamental democratic principle of equality before the law.

It is true that James Bulgar died an ugly death-that is no excuse for compounding the evils by then essentially altering the law to inflict special punishment on his young killers. The Court of Human Rights is to be commended for taking an unpopular stand to support equality before the law for two very threatened young offenders.
C. Lowther, Japan

I am disgusted at this change of the courts decision. What kind of world are we living in when you are a murderer and get compensation for an (unfair) trial? Where was the fairness for James?
Betty Vanveen, Holland

Okay so the boys might have been dealt with in a slightly more sensitive way than they were, but I cannot feel anything but anger towards the European Courts' decision. These boys didn't just kill an innocent toddler, they brutally tortured and mutilated him. I don't care what happens to them, but to give them several thousand pounds each and the possibility of early release is outrageous. I feel extremely sorry for the Bulger family. Michael Howard was absolutely right and the European Court has served only to outline how easily the system can be corrupted and manipulated by clever solicitors, whose only purpose in life is to line their own pockets. It is a sad day indeed.
Chris, England

How can the judicial system have become so blinkered that two murderers receive compensation?
Howard Stimpson, UK

Of course they did not receive a fair trial. British justice is becoming increasingly reactionary, knee-jerk judgements that only serve to assuage public opinion of the basest kind. An eye for an eye is simply revenge by another name. If Bulger's killers should stay in prison, what about Louise Woodward? England is a land without compassion, a culture of 'I'm all right Jack' is the new credo, where The Sun is the most widely read 'newspaper'. It's time for a return to humanity; love, not hatred.
John Claro, USA

How can we possibly hold two 17 year olds responsible for actions they committed when they were 10?
Mark Lorch, UK
How can we possible hold two 17 year olds responsible for actions they committed when they were 10? Which one of us can honestly say that we feel responsibility for our actions as a child now that we are adults? Furthermore, the point of a sentence is to act as a deterrent, so how is keeping these two young people in an adult prison possibly deterring today's children from committing terrible crimes. Children will not learn any moral codes from this case. Also, I don't believe that sending these two people to an adult prison will in any way rehabilitate them, if anything it will do the exact opposite. When they are eventually released they are unlikely to have any social skills, by keeping them locked up we are just generating two more sociopaths and causing society more problems in the future. A life was destroyed by these two boys, but that doesn't give us the right to destroy two more. They need our help not and shouldn't be subjected to revenge.
Mark Lorch, UK

Difficult. Despite their terrible crime, I don't feel the two boys should be locked up forever, but that they should serve out the rest of their sentence. Their lives are ruined (their own fault, however) and they will have to spend the rest of their lives with the guilt of knowing what they've done and other people knowing who they are; it will never leave them, as Mary Bell could no doubt testify to following last years massive media interest in her. The purpose of prison isn't just to punish, but also to rehabilitate. If it can be demonstrated that these boys are fit to be released, then they should have the chance to make a worthwhile contribution to society as adults.
Mark, UK

It all depends on what society views as the purpose of imprisonment: is it purely to punish the criminals, or is it also intended to help them see the error of their ways and to be reintegrated into society with a minimal chance of reoffending? The latter is more expensive and requires more time and expertise, therefore many people won't consider that option and plump for the "punishment" option alone.
Hazel, UK

Mr. Elliott appears to be recommending the lynch mob in place of trial by jury. Nero would be proud.
David Clark, UK

Absolutely everyone, no matter what they are accused of, deserves a fair trial. These two boys were tried and convicted by the media, and consequently of course they did not get a fair trial as the European Court has determined. The propaganda and misinformation which surrounded this case was appalling. If these boys are released prematurely due to courtroom bias then blame the media, no one else.

I just can't comprehend how two boys, 11 yrs. of age could execute a small child. Obviously, James was screaming and terrified before his execution. Think about it. I think those 2 murderers should stay in jail a lot longer. Fair trial? Who cares how fair it was. Were those boys fair to James? Why should the public coddle to murderers? They're lucky it wasn't my child because my sentence would be more severe.
Melanie, USA

I think if they stayed in prison for the rest of their lives it would not be unreasonable.
Michael Dunne, England
The crime was so grotesque that they deserve no sympathy, and the parents and family deserve all our sympathies. I think if they stayed in prison for the rest of their lives it would not be unreasonable.
Michael Dunne, England

What is the minimum 'tariff' set for the suffering that the parents' of Jamie Bulger have to endure? 10 years? 15 years?
R Mcguire, UK

These children committed a crime of murder. Perhaps their trial should have been done in a more appropriate way, but either way, no one would want the outcome to be any different - as long as possible in a detention centre. It's a shame that James Bulger is not alive to enjoy his "human rights".
Laura, UK

Although they were young boys at the time, they committed a crime associated with adults- therefore, being tried in an adult court was appropriate, likewise, life should mean life. Little James will never have the freedom to enjoy what life has to offer, so why should his killers be allowed to? I am also appalled at the compensation paid to the boys - let's not forget, they are the criminals, NOT the victims
Karen, UK

We all remember the sorts of things we used to do as kids, often with regret or embarrassment, young boys especially having a morbid fascination with violence, death, fire and such things. I can recall many things we used to get up to, mostly harmless, but I don't think I would ever even have dreamt about taking another persons life. The fact that these to boys were able to do so suggests a far deeper seated mental problem than pubescent fascinations....a problem that will not go away overnight. Eventually these two young men should be allowed to take a place in society and have some hope of a life, but not yet. If they were capable of murder at such a young age, what are they capable of now?
Dave Wilds, England

What is happening with this whole issue is that people are forgetting that these two sane human beings (Venables & Thompson) committed a brutal & cruel murder on a completely innocent & defenceless child and for the greater good of humanity must serve their punishment in full.

To consider anything else i.e. an early release, is a total contradiction against societies moral codes. I promote zero tolerance. In my opinion, for the European Court to rule that the two murderers received an unfair trial is not only ridiculous but gives rise to suggest that it is a result of lawyers extracting as much financial gain out of the case as they possibly can. We must not lose sight of the cruel nature of this murder.
Chris McCormick, England

The continued imprisonment of James Bulger's killers and also Myra Hindley has very little to do with justice and everything to do with press appeasement. What's the point in having laws if they can be altered for certain individuals?
Bob, England

When will Civil Rights groups put the rights of the victims before the rights of the criminals? Or do they feel that as it's too late for Jamie Bulger's rights to be protected they might as well look after his killers?
Brian Thompson, UK

At 11 years old these two boys where clearly able to decide what was right or wrong. Should they be released early? They should not be released at all! If the ECHR is truly interested in the rights of it citizens, perhaps they should spare a thought for the real victims, the murdered child, it's parents and family. Releasing these two early will send out a chilling message about the value of human life, namely that it is not worth a damn, particularly a child's.
David Ward, UK

I think they have been more than punished enough.
Tom, Australia
I think they have been more than punished enough. What is the purpose of a long sentence? Is it meant to be a deterrent to other youngsters? I don't think such a signal would be received by those of such a young age.
Tom, Australia

The killers of James Bulger committed a most wicked deed. But should they be punished with the same severity as if they were adults? A sentence of 15 years is the sort of sentence given to adult murderers. I think it should be judges who decide the length of sentences, not politicians.
Miland Joshi, UK

Maybe the European Court of "Human Rights" should rule on whether James Bulger's human rights e.g. the right to life, were violated.
Graham, UK

This is an incredibly emotive topic. Michael Howard was wrong to raise the minimum sentence as this was a typical political gesture to appease a rampant press. I feel they should serve the ten years accorded them in the High Court and not the extra five which was deemed politically palatable.
Garry, UK

My son is the same age as James Bulger was, I am sorry but these boys should serve the full sentence. To give them compensation is a joke as well.
Steve, England

Hearing the comments of the legal representatives of the boys made me feel sick. They seem to be looking at anyway to release these evil boys. SHAME ON YOU. The boys would have been locked up regardless of whatever process was used. The money this has cost (lining the pockets of the solicitors) would have been better spent on little Jamie's family.

The two convicted individuals should serve at least the minimum sentence passed by the original courts. Intervention by the then Home Secretary should be disregarded as inconsistent with the ECHR, a convention we willing signed up to. It is due to debates like this that that Home Secretary was compelled to meddle in the affairs of judicial process. Justice must be transparent, unfortunately here it was not.

No one has disputed the original verdict, only the manner in which judicial procedure was exercised. We should welcome the ECHR decision and act upon to adjusted our rule of procedure accordingly.
Edward Cutts, United Kingdom

The European Court of Human Rights is a joke and a threat to British Sovereignty. Their ruling indicates a total lack of regard to the rights of the victim, and the victim's family.
Walter Foltz, Canada

James will not be able to run around and enjoy life, like he should be doing, but if his killers are released early they can.
Debbie Lanham
I cannot believe that they are thinking of allowing two murders out early, just because of their ages, and trying to say they were not treated fairly in court, and that should not have been tried in an adult court. They committed an adult crime, therefore they should be in a court of law for an adult. When they committed the murder of James Bulger (a defenceless young child), they knew exactly what they were doing. James will not be able to run around and enjoy life, like he should be doing, but if his killers are released early they can. How is that supposed to make James's family feel? If you commit a murder, life should mean life, NOT JUST A FEW YEARS, and then be let out for good behaviour. If that is the case, then release all the murders back into the public, see how society ends up then!!
Debbie Lanham, UK

They may have served some time but has it done any good? Will this ruling just release two monsters to inflict more death on society?
Matt, Ireland

It is a paradox that "society" is concerned about violence in general but refuse to stomach the actions necessary to contain it. The European High Court of Justice ruling simply shows that the Court is out of touch with reality.
Pl H. Bakka, Norway

Justice should be what the public want, maybe it's about time the government let the people decide what should be a 'fair and just' punishment for common and major crimes rather than letting un-elected judges decide, after all this is meant to be a democracy. Back to the original question, I think that 15 years isn't long enough, it should be life.
Ross Elliott, UK

Some might say that Jamie Bulger's killers didn't know right from wrong but surely those same killers realised that what they were doing on that fateful day wasn't right. I think they should serve the rest of their sentence and be thankful capital punishment hasn't been brought back.
Donna MacRae, UK

Dickens' opinion is lamentably apt today: the law remains a ass and an idiot.
Stephen S., USA

I felt great revulsion on hearing about this crime, I was nevertheless disturbed to see two children subjected to the rigours of an adult court. There must be better and more appropriate ways to deal with child offenders, however horrifying the crime.
Janet, UK

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See also:
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Bulger killers' trial ruled unfair
16 Dec 99 |  UK
In their words - Bulger case quotes
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Grim memories of the Bulger trial
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Child trials thrown into question
16 Dec 99 |  UK
Venables parents 'relieved' at ruling
15 Mar 99 |  UK
Bulger mother 'will fight' trial ruling
28 Oct 99 |  UK
Outrage at call for Bulger killers' release
15 Mar 99 |  UK
James Bulger: The court's decision
15 Dec 99 |  UK
The Bulger killers' legal challenge explained

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