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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Bulger: Was the right decision made?
Freeing the two murderers of toddler James Bulger was the right decision, according to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf.
Lord Woolf said the killers' crime was "very, very grave" but it should be remembered that "they were first of all human beings and secondly they were children".
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were 10 years old when they abducted and murdered the two-year-old James Bulger.
Now aged 19, the pair were freed last year and granted anonymity after the Parole Board decided they were no longer a danger to the public.
Do you accept Lord Woolf's comment that everyone, even those who kill, have rights? Do you think the right decision was made?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Colin Morley, UK
I am very happy to live in a country where matters of law are decided by courts, juries and judges and not by public opinion or that of a few newspaper proprietors.
Stephen G, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Once again the EEC has overridden UK laws. They should have been put into a mental institution for the rest of their lives.
These two boys are not criminals - they are severely psychologically disturbed. They should be detained in a secure unit for examination until the authorities are absolutely certain that the causes of their behaviour are understood and that such a thing will not happen again.
I still remember what it was like being a ten year old, even more so as I work with children and I know that at that age you know right from wrong, good from bad. Isn't that the whole justification for handing down a life sentence to people who take a life? I think it's appalling these guys got let off so lightly.
Lord Woolf's opinions are immaterial. He, of all people, should realise that legal decisions should be explained in court and that should be an end to it. The individuals concerned have been released and there is nothing to be gained by drawing out this saga any further.
Simon, London, UK
As a barrister, something troubles me about this case.
If you had a 40 year-old man who had murdered a child, but who at trial was found to have a mental age of 10, we would all agree that that he had diminished responsibility and should be helped and treated rather than punished.
But when we have a child who actually is 10 with a mental age of 10, why do we react so differently? Does anyone else see the contradiction?
When someone murders another they take away the one fundamental human right there is - the right to life. Why should these people be given any rights at all, when they so callously took them away from another? As a taxpayer, I am happy to pay for them to be locked up for a long time, instead of my money being wasted on them getting the chance to do things that their victim had no opportunity to do.
Ammer Tufail, England
The job of prisons should not only be to detain people, but also to ensure that they will not commit crimes and have the ability to be self-sufficient through honest work once they have been released. Let us hope that this is a success story of the British prison system┐
Ten year-olds know right from wrong, but that does not mean they fully understand consequence, responsibility, or the long term effects of what they have done. If our children behave in this way we have no one to blame but ourselves, because they are after all, a reflection of ourselves as a society. Perhaps this is what we are really afraid to acknowledge?
They should never have been let out. My opinion will not ever change on this matter. I feel for the parents, family and friends of poor little James Bulger who will suffer for this for the rest of their lives. Yet the two very people who caused all this heartache are the two very people being given new wonderful lives. The worrying thing is that these two murderers could be living next door to me or a member or my family and I would never know. Just the thought of it sickens me.
All human beings have the same rights - that I agree with, but we must give more rights to those that do not break the law. Victims' rights first.
I'm not sure his decision is correct, but I have a lot more faith in Lord Woolf than in the tabloids and politicians.
Could Greg Brown please define the line where "punishment" crosses over into "vengeance"? I'm not denying that those who serve their sentence deserve the chance to be rehabilitated, but it must be remembered that prison is not just for rehabilitation and for public safety, it is for the punishment of the guilty.
Personally, I don't see how the loss of 9 years' freedom is sufficient punishment for the torture and murder of a child, regardless of the age of the offender. There is a public outcry when paedophiles are released even if they committed less than murder. Can true punishment ever be served in either instance?
In response to Greg Browns' comment, I don't think the parents, friends and relations of little Jamie Bulger think that life imprisonment for Venables and Thompson is "futile vengeance" ?!!
Rather than being proud of this example of humane and progressive rehabilitation and a success of our justice system, it's rabidly criticised. What is to be gained, except a futile vengeance, from keeping these young men incarcerated for the rest of their lives at great expense, when they have the chance to be useful members of society? No doubt these sentiments will lead to me being described as a do-gooder, which is fine. More people doing good would improve our society no end.
29 Jul 02 | England
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