Last Word: Government right to protect Jon Venables

THE news that child killer Jon Venables is back in prison, for reasons shrouded in secrecy, has arrested the attention of the nation, writes Louise McEvoy. The media has whipped the public into a frenzy over the fact the Government has failed to reveal ex

THE news that child killer Jon Venables is back in prison, for reasons shrouded in secrecy, has arrested the attention of the nation, writes Louise McEvoy.

The media has whipped the public into a frenzy over the fact the Government has failed to reveal exactly why Venables has been recalled by police.

One national paper has started a petition calling for Government transparency in the case, and the scrapping of rules protecting killers who re-offend. It has already attracted more than 70,000 signatures.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both aged 10 when they murdered two-year-old James Bulger after abducting him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Liverpool, in 1993.


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They were released in 2001 after serving seven years and eight months in local authority secure units, and both were given new identities.

Without anonymity, the pair would have been forced to go underground, consequently making it more difficult for them to be monitored while out on licence.

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It may be viewed as a convenient way in which to delay scrutiny of how and why the monitoring of Venables appears to have gone so badly wrong, but the Government is right to be cautious about revealing details behind Venables' recall.

Both the police and the director of public prosecutions have advised that the premature disclosure of information could undermine the integrity of the criminal justice process, including any potential prosecution.

Even the mother of James Bulger, Denise Fergus, has said she can wait to find out the full details as to why Venables is back in prison, to prevent jeopardising any future court case.

At least one national newspaper has feigned indignation at an injunction preventing the publication of more details about the case. The paper's editor cannot fail to know it faces strict criminal liability under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 if it reveals information which creates a substantial risk of serious impediment or prejudice to the administration of justice.

This country has a legal system which will provide a fair trial if called upon.

Revenge has no place in a civilised society, and if Venables' identity is revealed he could be killed.

The State has a duty of care to protect Venables, now 27. He was not handed a death sentence when he was convicted of the killing of James Bulger, and in the eyes of the law he has served his time for the murder.

Succumbing to the demands of the public - who are acting like a baying pack - or a media campaign primarily aimed at increasing newspaper sales and website hits, is no way to secure justice.

The Government should hold its nerve and not be swayed by what can only be described as a lynch mob mentality.

The rule of law in this country must be followed to the letter. The alternative is to take a backward step and allow people to take the law into their own hands.

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