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Anorak | Jon Venables: turning James Bulger’s murder into good and moral entertainment

Jon Venables: turning James Bulger’s murder into good and moral entertainment

by | 23rd, November 2017

Jon Venables, the child who killed a child, is back in the news. News is that he’s been caught in possession of child abuse images, just as he was in 2010. This means he’s back in prison.

The Sun leads with the news, saying how Venables’ probation officials spotted the images on a computer belonging to the 35-year-old who together with Robert Thompson killed James Bulger in February 1993. Over pages 4 and 5, we see the familiar photos: Venables at age 10 stood for the police cameras; his partner in crime Robert Thompson in the same pose; and that haunting CCTV picture of James Bulger being walked form a Merseyside shopping centre to his gruesome death.

Venables, of course, is not known by that name. He got a new name, one which cannot and should not be revealed. Right now he’s in a category A prison, his alleged offences under investigation. If it goes to court, the paper says Venables will be afforded a crown court trial. Venables keeps costing the State money. Last time in prison, we learn he was given around-the-clock protection, and “access to guitar lessons and a rowing machine”. Before his release in 2001, he was given “years of costly treatment”.

The crime was heinous, one that shocked us all. But the story is without end. The country does try to seek out Venables, much less exact vigilante justice. So what is the purpose of the Sun’s story? Is it to show that rehabilitation does not work. Surely not because Robert Thompson is “now hailed as rehabilitation success story”.

Venables served seven years of a life sentence for the murder of James Bulger. In 2001, aged 18, he was set free, albeit under license, able to be recalled for any misdemeanour. He got a new name, a job that enforced unsociable hours on just above minimum wage and a place to live. The press were forbidden by law from revealing any details on Venables’ new identity. But we only knew their real names because the judge told us the killers’ names in an adult court, moving on from ‘Child A’ and “Child B’. Was that right? Venables was ordered never to reveal his original identity to anyone. He must live a lie. Was that freedom?

Then, aged 27, Venables was back in prison, serving a two-year sentence for downloading and distributing indecent images of children. Now he’s back inside again. And the media continues to stoke the fires. Denise Fergus, James Bulger’s mother, is back on our screens, her pain clear to all. Her lot is to be a media celebrity dished up for us to gawp at. On Sky News, once more she is encouraged to revisit the horror. Our utmost sympathy must be with her and Ralph Bulger, James Bulger’s father. They have no need to forgive.

But why are we invited to stare? Why are we being invited to be entertained by their suffering?

It was ever so. The rare murder of a child by children might have been sui generis had the Labour spokesman on home affairs not milked the story. Tony Blair, for it was he, seized the moment to amplify the murder into a national crisis. Thompson and Venables’ crimes were “hammer blows struck against the sleeping conscience of the country, urging us to wake up and look unflinchingly at what we see”. He told us: “A solution to this disintegration doesn’t simply lie in legislation. It must come from the rediscovery of a sense of direction as a country… We cannot exist in a moral vacuum. If we do not learn and then teach the value of what is right and what is wrong, then the result is simply moral chaos which engulfs us all.”

There are other murders. But this one served a purpose. Blair tapped into the trial judge’s comments on it being a crime of  “unparalleled evil and barbarity”. If that was evil the likes of which had never been seen before manifest in our midst, then Tony Blair was the force for good.  And so it was that the murder of James Bulger became a totem for the nation to rally around. James Bulger, the innocent child, became a New Labour symbol and a political football. The crime was submerged in the age’s reaction to it. And there was the video and the pictures to promote the message on rolling news. They’re still being used in a crime packaged for our age.

 



Posted: 23rd, November 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Tabloids Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink