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Did his decisions trap him or was he trapped long before that?
1993. That is the year that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were classmates at St. Mary's Church of England school, killed James Bulger. It is reported they often played truant, but this day was going to be different. After going to The Strand shopping centre in Bootle they abducted a 2-year-old boy, who they later tortured and killed. The murder was premeditated, and one of the most devastating crimes in modern history.
Before this event took place the boys are known to have stolen from and sworn at shopkeepers, as well as committing violent acts such as stoning and firing air guns at birds and torturing cats and rabbits. Both Thompson and Venables had separated parents, and both of them were often absent from school.
This lead some public speculation to focus on the possibility of blame on the parents. It is worth noting that these parents, too, 'lost' their children when they were jailed and given new identities, their reputations tarnishing their whole families forever.
The children's lawyer described the parents as seeming to be good people, and Venables' mother herself described her boy as "weak." This made him seem an unlikely candidate for a murderer, which is something many of the people who dealt with the case have commented on. It was claimed by his mother that Venables liked to be liked.
This, therefore, makes him a prime candidate to be manipulated. This all ties in with the notion that Thompson was the ringleader, but doesn't in any way suggest that Venables was therefore of diminished responsibility for his actions.
It has been puzzled over for years now what possessed two young boys to do such an awful thing. Many believe they were just born evil, but can this ever be true—and is it possible Venables gave up trying to do the right thing simply because he never forgave himself?
In 2001 both boys were both let out of prison under life license (parole with no fixed term, instead of continuing for the duration of their lives) with new identities at age 18, having each served eight years in prison.
Ever since the crime was committed, there has been controversy, and opinions range dramatically from statements claiming the eight-year sentence was too lax, all the way to arguments that the boys were too young to be taking legal responsibility at all, despite the heinous nature of the crime that they had committed.
There is a reason everybody remembers the name Jon Venables easier than they remember the name Robert Thompson. After being released from jail in 2001 with his new identity, Thompson has not been in trouble with the police again, and has been able to continue his—whether rightly or wrongly.
This is despite the fact it was always said that Thompson was the leader in this crime, and although the two boys received the same initial jail sentence, Thompson hasn't been in prison since. His lawyer, Laurence Lee, has spoken publicly to say he believes it is unlikely that Thompson will ever be seen in the public eye again; the two are still in touch.
However it is a different story for Venables—now 35—who was taken to court again in 2010 for downloading child pornography, and was sent to prison for a further two years. He was granted parole in July 2013. Now, in 2018, 25 years after the original crime, Venables appears in front of a court again for allegedly possessing abusive images of children.
Venables has had his identity changed twice since his original release, after telling people close to him of his true identity. He was also in the news in 2013 after a scandal involving members of the public being taken to court after posting images of him online. These law-breaking citizens avoided prison, but did receive a suspended sentence.
Emotions run high on the topic of Venables and Thompson and everybody seems to have an opinion. This tension surrounding reports of the Bulger case lead to a documentary about the Bulger Killers being pulled from Channel Four, amid claims the broadcaster was attempting to provoke sympathy for the child murderers.
The highly controversial documentary was said to depict the two children in a light which did not do their crime justice. Their crime is still unparalleled, even in the present day, and what they did to James Bulger cannot be morally redeemed, because the terror of their crime is inexcusable.
It goes without saying that protecting the identity of a free Venables means that he is free to love, marry and even have children. Aside from the harm he may potentially cause to young children or even adults, this in itself seems like a terrible breach of public trust.
Whilst nobody knows his identity, he could be my neighbor and I wouldn't know, he could live near young children. Where is the public protection here?
But the argument is not as simple as this, because it is also true that in releasing the true identity of one or both of these boys, it is very likely they will be harmed in some way by a member of the public, in a display of vigilantism, and this is an injustice arguably equal to the damage an undercover Venables may be capable of causing to a member of the public, and it is this argument with no obvious solution that creates such passionate views on this subject.