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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.

Your reaction

Have we all become so blinkered?

Colin Morley, UK
What happened to James Bulger was horrific and sadistic in the extreme. But the sight of grown men and women hurling abuse at ten-year-old boys was equally disgusting. If we cannot treat our children with compassion, how can we hope for the future? Have we all become so blinkered that we see only black and white and expect our ten year olds to be fully mature and reasonable?
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.
Steve Dyson, UK

The crimes of a child should still remain in adulthood

Stephen G, Newcastle Upon Tyne
A person does not suddenly change because they reach the age of eighteen. The crimes of a child should still remain in adulthood. Like the double jeopardy law, it was time that the law regarding wiping clean the criminal records because a person reaches age of eighteen was also changed.
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.
Jeffrey Parfitt, Canada

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.
George, UK

They have not been punished at all but merely given a good education

Robert, UK
We live in a democracy don't we, and yet Lord Woolf is accountable to no one. No those boys should definitely not have been released for an evil and sickening crime they have not been punished for at all but merely given a good education. Eight years is simply not enough. Anyone who says they should be given a chance would not think that way if it were their son who was murdered.
Robert, UK

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.
Chloe, USA

They will never be truly free

Andy, UK
The Bulger case has been at fever pitch from the start. These two boys hit a nerve in our idea of right and wrong in the same way that Jack the Ripper or Ian Brady and Myra Hindley did. Hamilton at Dunblane did something far more terrible and shocking, but we focus on these two school boys, I don't know why. Perhaps it's because of those haunting CCTV pictures. But they will never be forgotten and if one of them is arrested for even a minor offence the whole subject will ignite again. They will never be truly free.
Andy, UK

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.
James Munro, Scotland

We should offer them forgiveness for their crimes, not rewards

Simon, London, UK
These young men do have rights, and it is not correct that a politician should have any say in the length of their sentence. But there is a difference between rights and privileges. Venables and Thompson have been given new identities, houses, credit cards, jobs and educational opportunities which would not have been available to them had they not committed murder. By all means, let us leave behind this demonisation of the two teenagers, but we should offer them forgiveness for their crimes, not rewards.
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?
Maxwell, England

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.
Nick Pollock, England

Lord Woolf has taken a measured and sensible stance

Ammer Tufail, England
The wave of public opinion in this matter has been dictated by over zealous and vindictive tabloids. These boys are not saints by an stretch of the imagination nor are they the evil monsters they are portrayed as. Lord Woolf has taken a measured and sensible stance.
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┐
Francesco , London, UK

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?
Rosie, UK

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.
Emma, England

Rights are a hallmark of civilised society

Wendy, UK
Rights are a hallmark of civilised society - as is a justice system that is not based on emotion.
Wendy, UK

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.
M Lancashire, UK

I'm not sure his decision is correct, but I have a lot more faith in Lord Woolf than in the tabloids and politicians.
Jonathan Kelk, UK

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?
Jenni, England

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" ?!!
Kay, UK

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.
Greg Brown, UK




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29 Jul 02 | England
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