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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: NORMAN BRENNAN FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF VICTIMS OF CRIME TRUST and BARONESS HELENA KENNEDY QC JUNE 24TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: Well all of today's papers are full, as we've been hearing, of the release of John Venables and Robert Thompson who murdered Jamie Bulger in Liverpool eight years ago. In the Mail it's alleged that they're so worried about their safety that they don't want to be released while the News of the World quotes the mother of one of them saying she fears he'll be dead at the hands of vigilantes within a month.
Last night in Liverpool James Bulger's mother Denise led a protest rally against the release of her son's killers.
DAVID FROST: The procession then went on to the gates of the cemetery where James is buried. And with me now are Norman Brennan, a friend of the Bulger family and as I said earlier and more than that a Founder of the Victims of Crime Trust. And Helena Kennedy QC is here with us too. Welcome to both of you. Your reaction and Jamie's mother's reaction which I now you're privvy to.
NORMAN BRENNAN: My reaction is that it's too early, I'm not a hanger and flogger, I represent several hundred families of homicide and certainly have done for eight years and I just want to put right that some of the things that Denise and the immediate family say in relation to retribution or retaliation is the words of a loved one, a mother who's lost a child, it's been eight long years and Denise has never ever been allowed to grieve, even now there is going to be no closure and my opinion and certainly that of Denise and I spoke with her last night for about 40 minutes and never have I seen Denise so distraught in all the eight years that I've represented her views and the family's views. And that really is a concern to me, she is not just devastated, Denise is devastated, my personal view is that Lord Chief Justice Woolf interfered when perhaps he shouldn't have done in lowering the tariff to the lowest possible tariff and in fact he's done an injustice, not just to the Bulger family but Venables and Thompson. Now I speak to Denise regularly and I know that if Venables and Thompson had gone on to a Young Offenders Institute for three or four years the Bulger family, I am sure people in this country, would have felt that there would have been rehabilitation and also a punishment element. Now the families of Venables and Thompson are living in circumstances now that nine years ago they could only have dreamed of, so Denise, myself and I know my police colleagues and many other people are saying, you know in this particular crime, case, crime has actually paid and the anger and furore from Denise and her family is because the Lord Chief Justice has said eight years. Had it been three or four years in a Young Offender's Institute, believe it or not Venables and Thompson would have been released and I'm almost certain they wouldn't have been pestered anywhere near they are at the moment and probably will be for many years to come.
DAVID FROST: And you think there's something odd and almost obscene about the amount of money this is costing as you hinted there?
NORMAN BRENNAN: Let me just explain this, when Venables and Thompson murdered James Bulger there were 54 separate well-funded organisations for their needs. Apart from Victim Support they have never been involved in this case and a government funded and ghovernment controlled. The Victims of Crime Trust which I set up as a serving policeman because victims didn't have a voice, we have never received any funding, we've been turned down by the lottery, they've told us not to apply because we don't fit in their remit, we have tried every charity in the country to get some funding and the Home Office just said we're not going to pay your organisation to run. And do you realise last week there were four separate families on homicide watch, they were threatening suicide. Now if any of them actually committed suicide and I was on the phone with my Operations Director for many hours, that would cost this government several hundred thousand and that just shows you how perverse in this country the criminal justice system is
DAVID FROST: Right.
We care so much for offenders and so little for the victims. DAVID FROST: Helena?
HELENA KENNEDY: Getting the balance right is always difficult and I would agree that you, we really have to help those who are the victims of crime in dealing with their rage and their grief and all the emotions that come with losing someone in a terribly violent way. But at the same time we've got to get back to what this discussion's about which is, is it right to release these two boys who as children killed a child and I believe very strongly that here a huge process was gone through with great care and with great consideration to all concerned including what was right, what, what was the deterrent, has there been punishment, was there real remorse and, and all the evidence is that there has been and that these young men are now adults, they're 18 and the belief is that they have gone through a process of change and we have to believe that change is possible, that people can be rehabilitated. And the process will continue even in the community but I'm very alarmed that we have this terrible vengeful lust out there and, and I think that it is a sign that perhaps the very unpleasant things that cause the crime to be happening in the first place, we have to rise above that kind of violence, the best of humanity has to triumph over the worst of humanity and this crime represented the worst of humanity. But we cannot as a society behave in the same kind of way.
DAVID FROST: Norman?
NORMAN BRENNAN: I agree, I never have and I cannot condone vigilantiism but what happens when a society is giving up on a criminal justice system. Now I've been a policeman for 23 years, I have letters that I will welcome Mr Blunkett to come along and see from tens of thousands of police officers from the rank of constable right up to Deputy Chief Constable and the despair of these officers about the way victims and the society is going is absolutely alarming.
DAVID FROST: But all of this feeling, a strong feeling and how much of it is media induced I don't know obviously, but doesn't it suggest that maybe it should have been three or four more years, that, that, that this reaction does seem heart-felt, now I mean I know it's not a referendum or anything, but is it possible that there's been a miscalculation?
HELENA KENNEDY: Finding the right time to release people into the community is always difficult. I think that the choice here was about these, these children having moved into adulthood, a rite of passage has taken place and the rite of passage would also mean moving into the adult prison system and a very different kind of system from what they've been in so far and the real fear was by those who are knowledgeable about the system and about these two individuals was that that could be hugely detrimental to all the good work that's gone on in rehabilitation. So really just wanting more time and for them to be punished more in fact may have meant that, that the cure, if you like, would have been undermined and that was very much in the mind of Lord Justice Woolf who let me tell you is one of the most wise and considered of judges, who would not have rushed to judgement and then of course we've had a parole board considering it again almost a year later, saying we feel this moment is the right one and they of course are fearful as to whether it's the right moment but the good thing is that there's going to be a lot of support and any suggestion that there's any problem here they'll go straight back inside.
DAVID FROST: Well thank you both very much indeed, later on we'll be putting those points - we've got a lot of other things to talk about as well - but to David Blunkett, thank you both very much indeed.
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