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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Head to head: The Bulger release

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, now aged 18, have spent eight years in secure accommodation for the murder of James Bulger. The Parole Board has now decided they are no longer a threat to the public, and recommended their release.

Lyn Costello, from campaigning group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, says freeing them is the wrong decision. Mark Leech from ex-offenders charity Unlock says it is fair.

Lyn Costello from Mothers Against Murder and Aggression

We don't believe eight years is punishment.

We actually campaign for life to mean life, especially in the case of child murder.

We don't believe they've ever served a sentence.

Lyn Costello from Mothers Against Murder And Aggression
Lyn Costello: They have never been punished
We're told that prison isn't the right place for them, but we're putting boys in prison who steal cars, who rob shops - it's good enough for them but it's not good enough for murderers. I don't quite understand that.

Of course we believe in rehabilitation, but what about punishment?

I know the family certainly don't think they've ever been punished.

They've had a better education than they'd ever have got living at home.

What we've heard is they're being pampered, their family can visit them whenever - it's a bit like boarding school.

We've never called for a life sentence because we took their age into consideration, but they were children that committed an adult crime.

Mark Leech from ex-offenders charity Unlock

The time has come for these two young men to be released.

Mark Leech from ex-offenders' charity Unlock
Mark Leech: They have addressed their behaviour
They have complied with everything the authorities have asked of them. They have tackled their offending behaviour and, having met them, there is no prospect in my view that they will re-offend.

Nothing that anyone can do will bring James Bulger back, we should allow them now to get on with their lives.

[When I met them] they did not come across as the ogres that many people make them out to be.

They just seemed like normal teenage boys.

They didn't come across as evil in any sense.

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