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Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 12:48 GMT
Justice done or denied?
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, has ruled that the killers of James Bulger, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, should each serve eight years in prison. This ruling means that they could be released within months.
The Bulger family had campaigned for a longer prison sentence, and the detective who led the murder inquiry told the BBC that he thought a 15-year sentence was more realistic given the magnitude of the crime.
Has justice been done or denied? Tell us what you think.
This debate is now closed. Your comments:
Tony Martin got four years for defending himself against potentially violent intruders. These thugs get eight years for kidnapping, torturing and killing a helpless toddler. Please, someone tell me this is a sick joke.
Why weren't any of the parents of the two boys charged with the corruption of minors? Apparently, one of the parents had hired over 200 snuff and horror videos in a two year period. Don't children of that age copy what their fathers do?
Abdullah, Saudi Arabia
The justice system uses judge and jury to sentence people, not family members of victims, nor police who investigate the crime in question. Were this not the case then any claims to "blind" justice would be fraudulent. The Bulger case is emotive and has resulted in a population of people who know very little about the case being asked to judge two little boys. Justice is as much for the guilty as the innocent.
Why all the talk of justice for the killers?
There has been no justice for the mother and certainly none for the murdered child.
Let's remember the victim and his parents. They have suffered even more than the murderers.
Once the original trial concluded, there should have been a ban on all coverage of this case. For the reason, you only need to look at the appalling attitude of some contributors here and the frightening lynch mob mentality at the original trial.
It was inevitable that whenever these boys were released, there would be outrage from the parents and the hang/ flog brigade. Mary Bell was released into the community after an equally terrible crime. At the time, there was nothing like the hysteria now whipped up by the Sun and Daily Mail.
Keith Baldwin, UK
If the law says their sentence has been served then they need to be released. If justice has been done then they ought to be released. I thought that justice has to be 'seen to be done' - but who decides this? If popular opinion does not see this then perhaps justice and the sentence are not served and the law needs to be reviewed.
Whether releasing the boys now is a good idea or not depends entirely on them. Have they learnt their lesson? Are they now appalled by what they did for more than just the consequences it brought on them? If they have become different people then they should be released. If they are still explosive characters who would perhaps do something similar again, then they should stay locked up. Someone must have had enough contact with them to be able to tell.
If they are released they should never be able to benefit financially from their crime by selling any stories or versions etc.
My opinion on this case is that the two boys responsible for killing that little boy should be locked up until they die or should be given to the parents of James Bulger so justice can be done.
Whenever these two young men get released, there will be vast outcries that they haven't suffered enough from the hang-em and flog-em brigade. This decision has been taken after due process. Anyone who thinks that 8-years loss of liberty is not punishment should try it themselves!
The two boys are allowed out after 8-years, it does NOT mean they will be let out. They have to persuade the parole board that they have learnt their lesson and are not dangerous.
They will never have a normal life and that is perhaps punishment enough.
Chris Mcdermott, UK
My little boy was born in December 1992 and each year I think of the Bulger family at this time and will always do so. My heart weeps for these parents and their families and for Jamie's suffering. I do not believe that the "mob" want revenge but rather that as a society we not only believe in rehabilitation but in punishment as well. The boys knew what they were doing. They had plenty of opportunity to stop before they got to the railway line.
Throwing stones at windows and bending car aerials are examples of child crime.
Murder is an adult crime and, as such, should carry and adult tariff.
15 years seems a fair sentence - they will be out of prison by the time they're 25 and will have most of their lives ahead of them - unlike Jamie Bulger.
Jenny Wookey, England
Pouring paint in someone's eyes, throwing bricks at their head, fracturing their skull with a railway sleeper, etc. that is not "some childish role play that went horribly wrong" as someone wrote earlier. That is the mark of an evil person. And someone also said that one life had already been destroyed; let's not destroy two others. Wasn't this person thinking about James' mum and family?
This is not revenge. I would call it justice. Justice for James, his family and for other future victims.
The main problem as regards this issue is that it is being clouded by, on the one hand, hatred and a worrying thirst for revenge, and on the other, a rather misled belief in the British legal system and the rather abstract notion of "justice". Granted, what these two did was horrible and warranted a longer sentence. Yet, what is important are the lessons that must be learned from this tragic story. Firstly, a review of sentencing and parole should be carried out, with the emphasis on tougher sentences which act as a deterrent. Secondly, we should be tough on the causes of crime; this doesn't mean wholesale condemnation of the merest offence, but each and everyone of us taking on our responsibilities: to others, to help those in distress or in need; to our children, to educate them as to what is right and wrong, to care and look after them instead of seeing them as a burden, to help them develop into well-balanced responsible citizens.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)
I agree that the killers of little Jamie Bulger should be made to serve some time in an adult prison before being released.
Having said that I would like to point out that the 1960s child killer Mary Bell has since been released back into society and as far as I know has not re-offended. Surely these boys should be given a similar chance preferably, well away from their original homes?
I also hope that our government is studying ways of sentencing these child killers in such a way that their misguided supporters cannot get the sentence or punishment shortened by appealing to the so-called European Court of Human Rights.
The way in which sentences in the United Kingdom are subject to revision (based on EU directives versus the "outrage" of the tabloids) is a scandal. Just remember that the advocates of changing sentences for political reasons are the same scoundrels that would allow double jeopardy, suspend habeas corpus simply because a senior policeman says he has evidence that he can't reveal, and remove the right of the accused to face their accuser in a rape trial. Slippery slope? It's a vertical face coated in Teflon.
I am still appalled and angry that such a thing went on. I feel for the loss of the Bulger family. Now it is my turn as a law student to analyse this whole case, I feel that while the Bulger killers were old enough to know right form wrong I do not believe they knew what they were doing or what the repercussions of their actions would bring. But I do feel that they should serve at least 12 years in prison for what they have done, whether they be children or not.
In my opinion, the two boys did do wrong and they must realise by now that they did bad. Kids at the age of ten don't know right from wrong as they are only children. I do sympathise with Jamie's parents. I think that the law must change and give any minor, (aged under sixteen), half the life sentence of an adults for murder.
A lot of people seem to be saying that they will have to live with what they did for the rest of their lives. That only works if they feel any remorse over what they did. If they are truly evil they don't have to live with it at all, because they don't give a damn!
Nigel Whittington, UK
What they did was absolutely terrible, but they were children who did a dreadful thing and now they are adults. After all, Mary Bell came out to a normal life with a husband and child. She is no danger to society now and her crime as a child was just as bad.
I am all with what Lord Chief Justice Woolf has done and that it was a brave decision for him to make in light of baying mobs of people and media crying out for blood vengeance for what Venables and Thompson did. No one is making excuses for what they did. Indeed it was an abhorrent crime that they carried out and that crime will be with them the rest of their adult lives. Who says that their punishment will stop once they leave detention. It won't. Simple as that really.
P.S. The Bulger case has also highlighted the hypocritical attitude we have toward children in this country. Take Louise Woodward. She kills an innocent child and is treated as a martyr by the British media. Why the difference?
You can not keep people locked up forever.
One previous comment mentioned our so-called
civilised society. The petrol fiasco just about
proved that we are a couple of steps away from
a selfish anarchy. A true civilised society of people is one that wants to behave
properly and will not tolerate the minority who want to destroy it.
The only way to do that is to set a deterrent which sadly is not something I see being done here.
If these two could commit such a horrible crime at the age of 10 - and don't kid yourselves this was a childish game gone wrong - what could they be capable of now? It is true that none of us know anything about the personalities of these boys now, but I believe that they showed a fundamental evil by killing Jamie Bulger. Phil Saum says on here that he can't believe the hatred and need for revenge shown on here - I think these are perfectly natural reactions to a horrific crime and isn't all punishment - and therefore all criminal sentences - revenge?
I note the contrast between this case and the Moors murderers. In the mid-60's they are sentenced to a 'real' life sentence, and notwithstanding the European Court of Rights, it would appear that they will never be released. Woe to the Home Secretary who would dare to. Less than 30 years later, another abominable crime is committed, and 8 years is enough. Where is it going to end?
The self-righteous attitude of James Bulger's parents seemingly knows no bounds. Whilst I accept this is a very difficult decision for them to accept, who are they to assume they know more about human rights or the law than learned counsel and judges. That they display no understanding of the difficulties now facing Venables & Thompson displays an ignorant and uneducated selfishness of the highest order. If we give in to their requests to review this case, we may as well accept that bigoted council-estate mentality mob rule has replaced true democracy.
Thompson and Venables were ten. There are two aspects to the justice system - retribution and rehabilitation. In no way can the state consider retribution in the case of ten year olds! If they were 'evil' that itself was - could only be - a function of their environment as children. All those responsible for their environment should think about that.
Of cause they already have. Those who shout the loudest, and threaten the lives of Thompson and Venables are also those who harbour the most guilt. This is how they cover and try to conceal it.
Shame on those out there that demand retribution and cling to the philosophy of hate and un-forgiveness. Children who commit crimes are a product of the environment and experience has shown that, given suitable care, they can become useful members of society. The real punishment for these ex-boys is that they must come to terms with their own actions.
No, justice has not been served - again. These two knew very well what they were doing to that little boy and must have known it was very wrong! They should be locked up for at least 15 years. Who cares that their "lives have been ruined" - what about that little boy who was never given a chance. My heart goes out to his family.
Thank god there are one or two voices of reason on this page. The majority of people don't want justice, they want revenge. The prime consideration should be whether the boys are likely to offend again. If not, they should be released as soon as possible. This baying for blood has no place in a civilised society.
The question is better to be "who to blame"?
It has happened 7 years ago, it will happen again. Have you heard an 11 year old rapes a 13 year old?? Let's be realistic, let's start to have, to produce, to experience healthy family life, otherwise we suffer as we do so much every single day in this country.
Tony Hill, UK
A child's behaviour is a product of parental and societal guidance.
What happens when one does not have control of one's child [disciplining a child in a caring way)?
It is ludicrous that these two boys/men are being treated as the victims rather than the offenders that they are.
No matter how sorry and remorseful they are, the fact is that they deliberately tortured and killed a vulnerable young child whose only crime was to follow them unknowingly to his death.
If they were truly remorseful, they would accept their sentence and serve it out instead of trying to use a "get out of jail" card.
It is high time we stop giving killers a pat on the back and serving them tea and coffee before letting them go.
Hang them, lock them up for life etc. Are we living in the year 1000 or 2000? Children are children and should be treated as such whatever the circumstances.
Tracy, Saudi Arabia
Surely the issue is not justice, the issue now is the law. If the law states that these two young men have served their sentence and are eligible for parole then they should have that consideration. If we as a society are unhappy with this then the debate should move unto the current state of the law.
Phil Day, England
At least in my country it is very exceptional if a person at age of 12 years isn't fully able to understand what this is doing and be aware of consequences. Yet also here they are treated as children. I find this wrong. Otherwise I do not support the revenge mentality of some parents and relatives. The matter is for the society to solve because there are many more parents and victims and convicts where circumstances might speak for different solution than an individual loss of individual parents.
I believe they should be released, but under very with strict supervision to begin with.
Is it fair to judge someone, and condemn them to a life in prison for actions they committed when they were ten? I really believe it's not.
Think back to when you were ten, and think about how you viewed the world that age. I know when I was ten I did many things that I now look back and regret (although obviously I didn't do anything as extreme as committing murder). At the time I did realise the things I was doing were bad, but I didn't fully understand the implications of my actions, and I believe there is a possibility that the two youths in question were in a similar situation.
If this is the case (which I know is difficult to prove either way) then I don't see how keeping them locked up in prison for the rest of their lives is in any way going to help the situation.
If 10 year old children really don't know right from wrong, and can't be expected to understand that murdering toddlers isn't the done thing - as apologists for this pair would have us believe - we should be seeing children murdering each other routinely. We don't, because in reality no normal child thinks it right to murder another - even at 3 years, let alone 10. Jamie Bulger's murder was premeditated, protracted and sadistic, and his killers were sly enough to try and disguise their crime by having his body mutilated by a train. Still, eight years confinement is bound to have changed them. Isn't it...?
Liam Fisher, UK
I don't see how we can release IRA
killers by the busload, and probably
pay them welfare as well, and not release
these two kids.
Tony Hague, England
What a sad day. Another case of out-of-touch judges being influenced
by a bunch of unelected Eurocrats.
Britain disolves ever closer into anarchy, with no-one
willing or able to uphold simple moral rules.
Parents, teachers and the police are forbidden to correct
misbehaving children and when they go completely off the
rails it would appear that the law is on THEIR side.
What about the victims?
We all need somebody to vilify. As children we pick on the black kid, the fat kid or the ginger kid. As we get older we realise that society doesn't accept that and so instead we take the moral high ground against perverts and criminals. At least we can still feel superior to somebody.
The day these two boys were convicted, a mob surrounded their escort baying for their blood. They are, it would seem, a product of their society.
Since I have read the details of this horrific crime, I have been haunted day and night by the image of that child being led away. I have cried and wept for his parents, for them to have gone through this agonising ordeal. It is my opinion that these two boys are getting away with murder. They knew what they were doing 7 years ago and I feel that they should either remain behind bars or suffer the same indignities that that child did. I have no feelings for the boys except hatred and disgust. I really feel that this is a situation where age should have nothing to do with conviction. I hope that for the rest of their lives, hopefully short as can be, that they will never forget that child. I cannot even stand the thought of them entering society again.
No way! They have not paid for the torture they put that little boy through. They might have only been youngsters but it was obviously planned and therefore they should have to pay for pre-meditated murder. Little James didn't get all of this care and attention spent on him. He lost his life and so should these two murderers.
They knew what they were doing, I did when I was 10 years old. If they didn't, institutionalise them at a secure location. They should stay inside and learn some of the fear and horror that little Jamie, his parents, family and the nation suffered. Christianity teaches us to forgive but it also tells us not to murder, I can forgive when they have served for the crime.
Can we really claim to be living in a civilised society when such a level of hatred and hunger for revenge is evident on this forum?
My heart goes out to the family of James Bulger. It seems unbelievable that people saw the toddler in distress and with injury to his head and did nothing as he was being led away. These are signs of the malaise of today's hi-tech societies wherein none of us have time to even bother or think of our neighbours and people around us. We are simply too busy and too selfish doing our own work.
This is not a severe enough sentence, the child they killed has lost their "right to live", so why should they deserve such pity? The law needs to be changed drastically, children know they can get away with MURDER....this is why they are used as pawns by adult criminals of all kinds.
John Paton, UK
It is a sad day for England, Justice has NOT been done, you can kill someone now go to jail and get a free education and come out after a few years. That poor family has been destroyed by those two boys. Always remember that they get to live.
It's very sad that killers of this brutal murder should be released in a few month's time. In fact this tells me how loose the British criminal laws and European as a whole are with murders getting away with hardly any punishment for hideous crimes they commit. That's a shame to justice.
Only those with access to Venables and Thompson can have a real view of whether either is still a threat or whether the whole gruesome crime was some childish role play that went horribly wrong. If this was the case I can well understand the reluctance to send them to an adult prison.
The media and public cannot make an informed judgement no matter how much we would wish to. Society is however entitled to some kind of reassurance so if they are released, I hope it will be on licence, allowing them to be returned to jail for the remainder of the 15 year term if there is any return to violence or targeting of children.
Henry H, England
These two should never
be released. They are
evils. They deserve life
sentence for what they
What is happening to the judicial system in this country. Again the criminal has been put before the victims. How can it be right to get longer for robbery than for murder. This was premeditated, not done on the spur of the moment. For 10 year olds to even think about doing such a thing is beyond belief. They should be kept out of society for a far longer time than 8 years. 25 years is more in keeping with the crime they committed.
Justice denied. No room for negotiation here. Think how Denise & Ralph feel today.
The horror of it is that it could have happened to any of us...The killers, although only 10 at the time, planned the act...they therefore deserve the full 15 years...and quite honestly they deserve life...there is no cure for murder.
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