There’s been a lot in the press recently about one of the James Bulger killers who’s been taken back to prison for breaking the terms of his release.
Also, stirred up by the tabloids, there have been increasing calls for him to lose his anonymity and face trial for these new charges under his real name. There have also been people who really should know better claiming that the charges against him should be made public.
I can understand the anger in this case. I can understand how emotional it is. But I disagree entirely with the notion that anyone not involved in the case has any right to know the nature of the new charges. We may want to know – and indeed I’m sure everyone is curious – but that does not in itself give us the right to be told.
Everyone in this country has the right to a fair trial for every offence of which they are accused. The fact that Jon Venables has already been found guilty of a very serious – and truly horrendous – crime previously does not remove his right to a fair trial this time around.
If he were tried by jury under his real name, there is no way he would be guaranteed a fair trial. No matter how disturbing we find the Bulger murder not how we feel about the punishment the two killers have received, the right to a fair trial for this new charge should not be up for debate.
Emotion is a very powerful thing, and the Bulger case obviously stirs up emotions in anyone who reads about it – but perhaps the people who need to make the decisions in this case are not the ones who are emotionally involved. James Bulger’s mother is understandably upset, and may feel that – should Jon Venables be found guilty of the new charges – her suggestions that the killers were released too early was justified.
But right now, Jon Venables has not been found guilty of any new charges. The priority now should be to give him a fair trial for those charges. Any raking over the coals of the previous case in light of the new one should only be done once we know whether he actually did what he now stands accused of.