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Panorama Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Your comments on The Bulger Killers - Prisoners of their past?
Your comments on The Bulger Killers - Prisoners of their past

I am shocked at the 'demonisation' by society of the two young men. It would seem that as a society we need to dehumanise these men to reassure ourselves that 'we' could not be capable of such a crime. I wish to compliment Panorama on an objective portrayal of the facts. To date all the coverage I have read or seen has been inflammatory and emotive to say the least. I understand the strong emotions felt by the family of James but do not see how killing the killers would make the issue any easier for the family to cope with.
Ann Marie McKenna

I feel sad, ashamed and embarrassed to be a British citizen after the release of these two convicted murderers. I could feel the anger boiling over as I watched your programme. It would have been prudent to perhaps mention the atrocity this poor boy suffered leading up to his death. I couldn't help but think that whilst these boys enjoy days out, shopping, football etc, that James has denied all of that. I am glad that their continued safety is threatened and whilst I can't condone violence, I would be lying if I said any serious misfortune befalling them would upset me. As a parent myself I can only begin to imagine the pain of James mother and father. Justice can take many forms, Venables & Thomson should remember that each time they look over their shoulder.
Campbell Robinson

I keep hearing how the threatening mob wouldn't exist if the boys did a couple of years in prison and I'm afraid I don't believe a word of it. I think that even if T & V served another ten years in prison, someone would be waiting for them. Look at the case of Mary Bell when her new identity was disclosed. It's time to leave the boys alone and let them get on with their lives,

We're supposed to be living in a civilised society not in the dark ages where mob only rules

Mohammed, Birmingham
It is quite tragic that a very young child has been killed by these two young children. But the way the older and supposed to be more mature persons behaved when T&V were arrested and during the trial and after their release, is very disturbing. The Tabloid newspapers are always looking for sensation so they can sell more newspapers and that's what they did in this case too without realising the effect on general public. The way the society is now reacting over T&V's release by carrying a witch hunt against them and their families is very disturbing and it shows lack of understanding and unforgiveness. We're supposed to be living in a civilised society not in the dark ages where mob only rules. T&V have served their sentences and now have been released according to the law. They and their families should be left alone to build their lives too. Two wrongs do not make one right.

Surely the do-gooder of an American lawyer involved in the Bulger case is making the matters only worse. He should, if he is genuinely interested in justice, get involved in the US death penalty and the gun laws, rather then meddle in the internal affairs of this country.
Karl Hevera

I found the Panorama programme interesting but it didn't change my views in that I disagree with the release of T&V. That doesn't make me a member of the so called 'Baying Mob' either, but I believe that the nation has every right to be angry, what kind of society would we be if we weren't angered & moved by murder, especially that of a child. Maybe if the programme had gone into graphic detail about the injuries James' sustained at the hands of these evil beings, then some of our do-gooders might sing a different tune. Maybe if you had shown the anguish that the Bulger family have had to endure everyday for the last 8 years & no doubt for the rest of their lives, our American friend, Tom Loflin, might realise that James too was human. What happened to his rights? There should be no redemption for murderers and I have no sympathy for this twosome or their families. If they have to spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulder, then so be it. I haven't got time for vigilantism either, I'm far too busy working to pay taxes to help people like these rebuild their new lives!

Thompson and Venables did something terribly wicked at 10 years old. There is room for different opinions as to how long they should be imprisoned for it. But the people who gathered outside the courtroom and tried to lynch them: they are worse. They were fully responsible adults trying to kill children. Now the same evil people are hoping to circulate pictures of Thompson and Venables. This will inevitably lead to attacks on 18 year old boys.
Chris Green

I felt in spite of the best intentions it was unfairly biased towards Venables and Thompson. They may have expressed remorse. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that's what you have to do to get out! Regardless, rapists and GBH offenders get more than these 2 killers. Regardless of age, they murdered and tortured a small innocent baby. They should have been punished far more severely than they have been and they should certainly not be released at 18 to enjoy their lives under restrictions!! Everyone who knows about the case must have an opinion as it's almost impossible not to. But I feel so strongly that it's such a big mistake to let these inherently disturbed children out. They murdered at 10 years old for a laugh, on a whim. What will they be capable of when grown to manhood? And to protect their identity also is to put others at risk.
Suba Nadarajan

After watching the programme I was yet again gobsmacked at the ongoing idea that a child who has a bad upbringing will turn out to do bad things, I have had a bad childhood (a lot worse than those boys could even dream of) but I have turned out to be a well balanced person as do most children who have had it hard so what is so special about these 2 boys that they had to go and torture and kill poor James who had done nothing to them? People are making too many excuses for them, what they did was wrong and evil and they knew it was wrong and that is why they lied when they where being questioned. If they served a few years in a real prison there would not be such public outrage and they would still have a good amount of life ahead of them and that is more than you can say for James.

I think it is terribly sad that these boys have not been punished with a severity that befits the crime

Steve, Pershore
Reading through some of the thoughts expressed on this subject leaves me cold. One '36 year old professional' suggests that it was barbaric that they were ever brought to trial, let alone sentenced. I presume a warning would have sufficed for the torture and mutilation of a defenceless child. One other person suggests that if you don't have 10 year old children then you are not qualified to comment. I once spent a whole year as a 10 year old and I am starting to feel very insecure about my own childhood. I never once thought about disembowelling and murdering another human being let alone got round to actually doing it. Reading some of the comments it seems that 10 year olds are prone to doing this because they do not understand that it is wrong. I suppose we are just very lucky that it doesn't happen on a much more regular basis. I am not a member of the 'baying mob' but I think it is terribly sad that these boys have not been punished with a severity that befits the crime.

Whilst I believe that the death of James Bulger was a tragic event in the past, I cannot accept the people of Merseyside's view that hunting down these two children would make any difference except in teaching their own offspring that it is alright to kill for revenge. Is this the type of behaviour that we, as a peace embracing society, want to teach the next generation of children? As for the assumption that attacking and condemning the families of Venables and Thomson to a life of misery is outrageous. So much for a justice system that condones violent behaviour toward those with no involvement apart from being a blood relative. These two children, as they were when convicted have now served their time for their offence and should be allowed to live the remainder of their lives in peace.

Thompson and Venables should be left alone to live there lives the best they can.

Panorama - you are a disgrace! I felt, as did an entire room of friends and family, and I am sure the vast majority of your entire audience that your programme on Sunday night was so unfairly biased towards the support of Venables and Thompson. How dare you? Not once did you mention the terrible things that happened to that poor little lad. The fact is, that if those boys had done the 15 years they SHOULD have done, then I and thousands of others would have felt 'they have done the time for the crime'. Thus let them have a second crack a life. Instead they serve 8 years which no one will ever be able to justify to me, and all Panorama can do is support it and justify it. Your quote of 'exposing the truth' is pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourselves BBC.
Marcus Bailey
Dorking, Surrey

I cannot begin to understand the message that both the recent programme, the American lawyer and a significant number of people who have commented have appeared to convey regarding the issue i.e. If you show remorse after a short period of time following an evil, calculated murder of an innocent child you can expect to be released back into society on the back of years of privileges millions of law abiding members of society can only yearn about. I am totally disgusted that this message is heralded under the term forgiveness and anyone unable to comprehend the same is classed as belonging to the gutter press mob. I am just a father with 2 young children who feels much more for the victims than the murderers who I'm afraid will always have to live with their evil past whether they like it or not!

I come from another country (Western European, not that far away) and my cultural background may differ from yours, but it shocks me very much the reading this case is being given here. Everybody regards these two kids as fully responsible of their acts when they were 10 years alone!! At that age we all are unmade, not a grown-up. Nobody speaks of the responsibility the family and social environment have in this early age. Nobody asks him/herself how and why did they do such a tremendous act, what social clues are there behind it, what do we have to do as a society to prevent those or alike behaviours. By putting them into jail for a longer period we are not mending things at all. By killing the dog you do not kill this kind of rabies. I see no offensive or a very clear social disapproval of revenge. Revenge is human, but it should not be admitted, at least not in the media. I come from a country with very high political violence, people are menaced and killed and still their relatives never ever speak of revenge, they'll probably say they will never forget (who can?), but very many of them express forgiveness and talk of reconciliation. We all agree that revenge drives to nowhere and we regard it as socially non-acceptable.
Rafael Ajangiz

It's not up to the public who don't even know T and V to pass judgement

Simon, UK
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels sorry for T and V. In my opinion they have served their punishment. It makes me sick to think that some of the public think they should be killed for a crime that they committed when they were both just 10. It's not up to the public who don't even know T and V to pass judgement, if people who know them say they have been rehabilitated then that is the truth, not the stuff you read in the press. They should be left alone to get on with their lives. The crime happened 8 years ago, even if some people can't forgive, they should at least be able to forget.

I too watched Panorama, and once again felt sickened and depressed. I do not believe those two boys were born evil, but were victims of their own past, to which little James Bulger fell prey. I support their rehabilitation programme and release. I abhor this witch-hunt and search for retribution and revenge. As Marina Warner said in her Reith Lectures some years ago, Venables and Thompson had destroyed that myth of childhood innocence. Perhaps this explains the public's outrage, based on ignorance and lack of compassion. If these two offenders can benefit from a good education, may lessons then be learned that the disaffected youth of today could likewise benefit, so releasing them from whatever background deprivations and neglect they had hitherto suffered.
Vanessa Griffith

I am absolutely disgusted by the fact that the Mob Rules ok. Ok it is not. We are part of a civilised Country and should be proud in the fact that we have more integrity than some of our European counterparts. However these so called victims of T&V are now turning into something much worse than the Boys themselves. Being the same age as the boys themselves, I am now more scared by the mob of people (if I can call them that) whose life goal will now be to hunt down T&V and kill them, than the two boys who have had professional help to mend their ways. This mob is the one who now needs to be put in prison to see how they would like to be locked up for some of the most important 8 years of your childhood, and most probably your life.

I think the decision taken by the court concerning these two boys represents the single most progressive step this country's justice system has ever made.
Roy Wikinson
Herne Nr Herne Bay

It is James' parents that are living the life sentence and not Thompson and Venables

Cathryn, Cheshire
I understand that in a democratic society everyone has their right to speak, but I believe this programme was very biased towards Venables and Thompson. I feel that the victims of this horrific crime, James' Parents and Family, did not receive a fair representation. The convicted murderers may have been given a second chance in life and hopefully they will take this. However it should have been noted to a greater degree than it was in your programme that James will never have a 2nd chance, as a result of these 2 murderers. In my opinion it is James' parents that are living the life sentence and not Thompson and Venables.

I thought the programme was very biased and throughout the programme I was wondering how Denise Bulger was feeling. The two murderers were in a five star hotel, tv and computer in their room -luxuries that most of us cannot afford, this just gives out the wrong signals to all us parents that are trying our best to bring up our children and keep them on the straight and narrow. The message that came across was that it doesn't matter if your child gets into serious trouble, they will be given lots of treats. The vast majority of us cannot afford private education which these two boys have effectively had - one to one tuition. I certainly do not feel sorry for the Venables and Thompson families having to go into hiding. What were the parents doing when their ten year old children were playing truant from school and murdering little James Bulgar? If they had been doing their job properly then surely this crime would never had happened.

I must admit to a considerable level of 'confusion' over this continuing tragedy. I feel utter revulsion for the crime, yet I know why we must rehabilitate offenders; a desire to see proper 'justice' taking place and a genuine desire for James's mother (Denise Fergus) to find peace, yet a profound degree of sadness for the family of the murderers (who have been found guilty by proxy) to be allowed to live a 'normal' life. Undoubtedly the unconditional love exhibited by all three mothers in this tragedy is clear to see. I personally do not believe that either Venables or Thompson will be alive for many more years, however. The 'mob rule justice' ethic evoked all too often by the "Great British tabloid press" will eventually uncover the two boy's whereabouts and the outcome will be all too predictable. I sincerely hope that the level of counselling for the mothers of the murderers (when they are eventually hunted down) is appropriate for any relative of crime victims.

I do not think the killers of James Bulger have been punished. They are a prime example of how crime does pay. They have had an education far above that available to ordinary children. I think they are genetically flawed and should not be allowed to father children themselves. They have denied James the right to have children and they should be sterilized. To keep a close eye on their whereabouts they should be electronically tagged.
Heather McBreen

Having just spent the last hour reading all the viewers' comments, it's hard to believe we all saw the same programme. As an American viewer in Belgium, the Panorama programme informed me for the first time of the American lawyer's involvement, although I have been following the case from the beginning.

I feel Mr. Loflin was simply grandstanding and his reputation is more important to him really than the rights of two British boys

Nancy Franklin, Brussels
I am frankly amazed at the number of British people e-mailing who seem to approve of his actions, because I became angry that he felt it necessary to get involved at all. I do believe that there are enough child murderers in the U.S. that need his attention as we have not yet adequately resolved these issues ourselves. I find it quite out of place that this man and his wife could take up a cause for the community of Liverpool or the rest of Great Britain for that matter. The justice, and I do mean justice, not mob vengeance should be decided by the people of the community and society where the crime occurred. Yes, we have the death penalty in the United States, and as observers of our society will note, the exercising of this punishment varies greatly according to the region. I feel Mr. Loflin was simply grandstanding and his reputation is more important to him really than the rights of two British boys.
Nancy N. Franklin
Brussels, Belgium

Your programme failed to reflect the horrific manner in which James, a two-year old child, was sadistically tortured and left to die alone. Much of this detail, explaining the opinion of the interviewed investigating police officer, was omitted from your programme. In a democratic civilised society, the population elect representatives to govern and see that law and order is upheld in accordance with the mandate given to them by the electorate. I believe the majority of the British population are right to express their outrage that the government have let their democratic rights be ignored and overruled by unelected and remote individuals. The irony is that the ultimate fate of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson will result from public recognition of the injustice served to James and his family by the interference in our countries legitimate justice system by an American civil rights lawyer and the European Court of Human Rights. What representation has been made on behalf of James' civil and human rights? I suspect this balance is about to be redressed by other means, if the public can no longer trust the rule of law to represent their wishes.

What shocked me was the total lack of sympathy shown by the foreign lawyer Tom Loflin for the Bulger Family and most of all for the victim Jamie. I say let him go back to Carolina and take the murderers with him.
Das Avatar

I was pleased to hear how well Thompson and Venables had rehabilitated and surely this proves how well our system works for young offenders and that they are not the same boys who killed little James 8 years ago. If they have shown remorse as we are led to believe, then they will have to live with what they have done for the rest of their lives, coupled with the knowledge that there will always be people out to expose them and do them harm. I was dismayed at the mentality of some of the British public calling for revenge on these two young men, no such feelings have been stirred up against adult criminals who have committed just as terrible crimes against a young child, and whilst my heart goes out to James's mother Denise, what good is it doing her to just keep fuelling public outrage through the media, is it not time now to lay the past to rest and whilst no-one could expect her to forgive, surely could she not now move on?

I have just read the forum responses. I am truly saddened by the ignorance and viciousness being thrown around in this case.

I feel that if the tabloids had not made a crusade of this case it would have been less in 'the public interest'

Robert McFarlane, Glasgow
There were many calls for justice and for it to be seen to be done. If we had permitted the public idea of justice to be carried out then our society would have watched two 10 year old boys hanging from a tree somewhere in Liverpool. God help us, even the Old Testament theology recommended that the life of Cain was sacred and woe betide anyone who ignores that fact. How many people truly know what justice means and how long a sentence would ever satisfy the bloodlust of our benighted culture. I am personally glad that your programme did not expound the catalogue of injuries, as I have read the book "Jigsaw Man" most would have been unable to stomach such horror. I feel that if the tabloids had not made a crusade of this case it would have been less in 'the public interest'.
Robert McFarlane

Does the BBC assume that the general public are all 'a sandwich short of a picnic'. The programme was so biased that it made me feel physically sick. What kind of punishment have these two monsters had: a computer and a tv in their bedroom, the opportunity to go on day trips and play football with other boys, sounds horrific doesn't it. The two boys should have at least spent some time in an adult prison, that would have been real punishment. Why is there not a murderer's register, like there is for sex offenders. I don't want either of these murderers living next door to me where my young child plays in the garden. How do you really know that they won't do this again?
Michelle Hall

There have been more supportive of these toddler murderers than supportive of the victims. This is due in some part to a censorship of views which seems very common to BBC sites these days (they can always say its 50/50 then) but occasionally the views of someone like Doug of Sheffield sneaks through and actively attacks the victims and almost praises the perpetrators. This mentality that people should turn the other cheek and feel ashamed for wanting revenge for such an horrific act always gives me the impression that those who rant in this way intend it for OTHER people to follow these rules but if some similar thing should happen to THEM or THEIRS, then that is totally different. Hypocrisy rules.
Philip Kennedy

Surely there is something rotten in this country in the way these boys are pursued by both the public and the media? I can't imagine these feelings of hatred and vengeance toward CHILDREN happening in any other western, civilized country. People are not born evil - that's a medieval philosophy which we should be far beyond. Very little has been said about these boys' background, and I had hoped that Panorama should bring us some insight into WHY this happened - the reasons behind this crime. That is where the real focus should lie, so that lessons can be learned for the future. Like me, many other writers have wondered why adult murderers of children get off so lightly, when really it should be much WORSE! About a year ago there was a stepfather who for months systematically tortured a 4-year old boy until he died. What anguish did that little boy suffer? Just ONE example among many, but it was quickly forgotten in the press. Start treating children as human beings who deserve respect (no physical punishment, etc.) to become responsible adults able to feel empathy for others.
Ann Widung

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