Tuesday, September 03, 2013


The Mail is unsurprisingly one of the papers to feature the release on licence of Jon Venables, one of the boys who murdered James Bulger in 2001. James was two years old at the time, and the boys were ten. The Sun's coverage is more strident, but even BBC Radio news led its 11 am bulletin with the story.
As usual when the case is mentioned poor Denise Fergus, who suffered the trauma of losing a child in horrible circumstances, is wheeled out to tell a reporter that Venables should stay inside still longer. She has taken the place of the late Mrs. Bennett, whose agony at the murder of her son Keith by Brady and Hindley was regularly refreshed  by the press. Both women have suffered terribly, but it is a cruel deception to speak as if grieving victims have a veto on parole. That is why we have a well resourced and judicially supervised Parole Board.
Venables' case is uniquely difficult and I do not envy the Parole Board its task. Knowing that powerful and rich newspapers are keeping a lynch mob in the wings cannot make it any easier.


  1. While I hate the Mail and all it stands for, I think you are doing them an injustice - all the media is reporting Venables' release.

    A 10 year old child committed the most horrendous crime some years ago. As far as I can gather, although there is no reason I should be told, no one has ever sensibly considered what had happened to the 10 year old that caused him (and his friend) to do that. I discount the media hysteria over violent videos.

    I was then, and am now, appalled at the witch hunt against a person who was then a child. The abrogation of his rights at the police station - parents being allowed to be in the interview and telling him to admit the crime etc.

    This case personifies why our laws on childhood crime are not fit for purpose.

  2. It's not really surprising that the BBC included it, as it is in line with its continuing quest for popularity ratings. Yesterday it thought it proper to illustrate the trial of a television actor with clips of his appearances in a popular soap. Clearly the news editor did not grasp the blindingly obvious fact that it's the actor on trial, not the character. No wonder the judge and prosecuting counsel considered it necessary so to remind the jury.

    1. I lost all remaining respect for the BBC in 1980, when they reported the shooting of JR Ewing in Dallas as if it were real news.

    2. The inserted clips from Coronation Street are known as 'placers' or 'fillers'. A news report is boring if it just shows someone arriving at court and then leaving, since this individual cannot legally be interviewed directly. So to accompany the narrative the news editor inserts these clips to establish why the individual is well known (for those who do not watch the programme) and to keep the viewers attention. The viewer would lose interest trying to follow a reporter doing a piece to camera for two minutes, so these clips are there to keep the attention of the watcher.

    3. Being able to concentrate on someone talking for two minutes is, surely, a bare minimum for anyone carrying out any kind of adult job (let alone a magistrate). Why do the media persist in treating their audiences as if they were children (I know, this is gospel as taught them, especially if keeping up the ratings is the real motive for reporting, not informing people). What incentive is there for extending one's attention span if information is constantly spewed out in five second bursts? No wonder that, after more than a century and a half of compulsory state education, we still have an imminent lynch mob in waiting in the wings.

  3. Well said, BS. I entirely agree.
    Kate Caveat

  4. Although I certainly can't disagree with the point, I'm a bit puzzled by the reference to 2001 - 1993, surely?

    1. The author misread the Mail report. The relevant sentence in the report reads: 'He [Venables] was released from life sentence for brutal murder of the toddler in 2001'.

      It's phrased in a manner that can be read in two ways.

  5. I think life plus 1000 years would have been appropriate...

  6. My partner and i dropped almost all staying regard to the BBC inside 1980, when they reported the actual shooting of Jr . Ewing within Houston as if this have been actual reports.
    RS 3 Gold
    Buy Final Fantasy XIV Gil

  7. "Transportation for life, and then to be fined fifty pounds . . ."

    Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark.

    The last bit comes to mind when someone is given a long, long minimum, or whole-life like that foul animal in Wales, and then the judge is supposed to mention the surcharge!

  8. What a pompous post. First there is the implication that we the public are not entitled to know when a murderer is released on licence, as if what the criminal justice system does is non of our business.

    Then there seems to be an assumption that Denise Fergus is a helpless tool of the evil Daily Mail and is "wheeled out" to provide a story for that paper almost against her will. I don't suppose being patronised by BS will bother her much though, considering what happened to her son.

    Next we have the phrase "well-resourced and judicially supervised parole board". The implication here is that these worthies possess a wisdom not given to the little people and that we have no business questioning or even knowing what they do. We are invited to feel sorry for them when the great unwashed are able to read about what their decisions.

    I see this differently:
    Papers like the Daily Mail give people like Denise Fergus and her ex-husband, a voice because they think they and their son have not had justice.

    It's a strange bit of thinking to say that a story about her complaining-in vain-that Venables should stay inside for longer implies that she has a veto. The whole basis of her complaint is that she DOESN'T have a veto.

    In a free country, we are entitled to know what the Parole Board does. They and the rest of the criminal justice system will have to live with criticism if they continue to have an ethos that doesn't chime with the country.

    A word about the Daily Mail:
    The Daily Mail was running campaigns against ill-treatment of the elderly in our wonderful NHS hospitals-stories about the elderly going hungry and thirsty (and worse) many years before the "enlightened" Guardian, Independent or BBC ever gave a sh*t.
    I'm getting a bit sick and tired of people like BS (and NewChodge) making snide comments about this paper.
    I'm proud to read a paper which speaks for ordinary people and not some leftwing designated victim group.

    1. Yet right wing lynch mobs claim to be representing "the victims" as they hunt down their prey.

    2. Justice belongs to the law and Parliament makes that law.

    3. Briar
      Your comment is a red herring. Right wings lynch mobs, or left wing ones for that matter, are wrong and do not give out justice. In fact I don't know how your comment relates to mine at all.

      What people like Denise Fergus want is justice from the courts, prisons, home office and government who create the system. They want it to recognise the offence against them and their loved ones. By refusing to dish out adequate punishment, the system belittles the victims and the crime and compounds the injustice done to them and the rest of society by the offenders.

      Bystander Team
      Does that mean people like Denise Fergus, or anybody else, are not allowed to give their opinions on what the law is or how it is administered?

      Please spare me the meaningless platitudes. Nobody is saying parliament doesn't make the law - or that anybody else should make it.

    4. The problem, Brian, is that the two then-children were punished (etc - the other purposes of imprisonment) according to the law. It is Daily Hate-readers who believe the punishment was not "adequate".

      It is society (in the form of the state) that administers justice, and exacts punishment. This way we do not have vengeance, or mob rule.

  9. You say the two children were punished, as if it was an undisputed fact, such as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But it is not an undisputed fact. It is only your opinion and many people disagree with you. They feel the two children were never punished. Other people feel the punishment was inadequate. Whichever is true, the lack of adequate punishment constitutes an injustice against Jamie Bulger, his family and society in general.

    The article (that Bystander links to) is a moderate and sober report of the history of the case, the latest developments regarding Venables and the opinions of the Bulger family who have a right to be heard. Your attempt to link this article with vengeance or mob rule is ridiculous. Can you please tell me how they are related? Perhaps it's the fact The Daily Mail has reported the facts which annoy you. I suspect the real problem for you is that it throws a spotlight on things they you would rather keep hidden, the absurdly lenient criminal justice system we have.

    Regarding your last sentence. I have already said that parliament makes the law. Try re-reading what I said and actually understanding it. And the sure way to end up with vengeance or mob rule is if people feel that the police, the courts and the whole system DO NOT keep the state's side of the bargain by adequately punishing criminals.


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