OK, so this may be a controversial post as many people in this country have quite strong feelings on it, but the issue of Jon Venables is a sorry tale of how this country, for all its ‘development’ in the modern world, can seriously fail its people.
In 1993, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, carried out a disgusting, unforgivable, senseless and violent crime. They enticed two year old Jamie Bulger away from a shopping centre in Bootle, Liverpool, and took him to a railway line some two miles away. Here, for reasons only known to them which will have plagued them everyday since, they beat the child to death. I was not much older myself in 1993, that being the year I started secondary school. I remember it being on the news, I remember the horror and the disgust. I remember being quite frightened by it.
I also remember wondering about the parents of both the murderers and their victim. What was it that prompted these boys to commit such a horrific crime? What kind of life did they lead? Nothing so demonic had ever crept into my head, so why theirs? And James? Why was he not firmly rooted next to a parent or other guardian? At two years old, not that I remember, but I sincerely doubt my Mum allowing me, in a busy shopping centre, to wander away from her. But the answers to these I don’t actually know.
The boys were obviously sent to prison. A life of ‘rehabilitation’ awaited.
In 2001 they were released on suspended life sentences and given new identities to shield them from their past, to some extent, as they will always have to live with what they did. This caused outrage and a huge media storm. But a new gale is blowing now that Jon Venables, as was, has been rearrested again for an alleged ‘sexual crime’, with some news speculating child pornography. Mothers across Britain and people my age who grew up with this terrible tale are calling for his head. Suddenly we seem to have stepped back into the dark ages.
Obviously, yes, if he has done something truly awful, yet again, he will pay the penance. But surely, the state has something to answer to here?
Those boys, when originally convicted were branded for life. The media saw it as their ‘right’ to publish all manner of articles and news reports on these boys and their families and the monsters that they were. With such a high profile on entering a state institution, from the rumours we see in our beloved TV programmes, these boys will have suffered fates worse than hell. Now, understandably, many readers will believe this is just and proper. But they were 10. Something had gone so horribly, horribly wrong in their lives that this seemed like a game to them. I don’t know, having only been eleven, but were their families investigated? Did social services look into the environment in which they were being nurtured?
I recently wrote a post as to whether creativity was a natural or an influenced attribute. Now you are not seriously going to tell me that the personality of a murderer can be innately born into this world. If we are so heavily influenced by our surroundings in those formative years, just what the hell was influencing them?! I would like to argue a serious lack of parental judgement/control/presence.
On the BBC’s Question Time the other night, the author Will Self made a startling comment, which I would imagine gained complaints to the broadcaster, but he spoke like I had never heard someone do before with regards to this case. He pointed out that these boys were children and that their own confessions taken by the police were those of very confused, very frightened and very mislead children. They committed a mother’s worst nightmare, true, but from their testimonies had no real understanding of the gravity of what they had done. They had no clear boundaries of right and wrong (granted, the average 10 year old should have, but lets be clear, these boys were obviously not an average, middle class child). This was a stark contrast to the simpering piffle that spilled from Carol Vorderman’s mouth.
So, the correct punishment was given. But where was the intervention from here? Due to the wonders of television and the slum press, these boys when they grew to be men would never, never be able to live a normal life again. Their faces, despite growing in maturity, would still be recognised. They would be hunted by the press forever more. This current case is a prime example: if Jon Venables has indeed been given a new identity, how exactly has it come to light about his new arrest?! But, lets put that to one side right now.
These boys, under the state and in the system should have received the best rehabilitation available, the best psychological help and therapy. After all, isn’t our prison system about dealing with the issues of crime in order to make its residents citizens on their release? To ensure they don’t re-offend? And at the end of the day, you don’t encounter too many 10 year olds who commit such brutal crimes as these. They were in desperate need of some serious help – and education!
Prisons clearly, no matter how hard they try, are never going to be the most suitable of learning environments, but after eight years, there should have been enough time to undo some of the mental wrong that had been inflicted in childhood. But then again, you are fighting against a greater foe, that of adolescent peer pressure. Most of us hate walking past the ‘hoodies’ in the streets, and those kids are on this side of the prison gate. God forbid I should ever encounter what is on the other side. Here the system fails again. They failed to prepare the then eighteen year old boys for life on the outside, having missed out on ‘normal’ interactions throughout adolescence. What chance were they going to stand? Especially when the media were there outside waiting for them, already erecting the scaffolds, the hangman having been wearing his black hood in anticipation for quite some time.
I am not saying they deserved specialist treatment, but what I am saying is that our blessed country failed these children. They did not help them. I would imagine the inside only made it worse.
And here we are, nine years later, and yet again the ‘media frenzy’ has taken over but with the failures of the system ignored. Jon Venables, if it is true of the allegations, has clearly got a very twisted mind. A mind that has not been rehabilitated, a mind that has not been helped and a mind that still cannot see morality. Had the system our government is so proud of – what with their convenient crime statistics and attempted cover ups of major goofs (just imagine the stuff we don’t hear!) actually done it’s job, he would never be looking at returning to complete his life sentence.
But it won’t even matter if he’s innocent, he’s already been tried. The media wills it so.