CASE STUDY – BULGER AND THE UK: THE MEDIA, THE PUBLIC AND THE GOVERNMENT REACTION
The murder of James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys in the UK demonstrates the fundamental effect that one case can have on a juvenile justice system. In this case the interaction between the media, the public and the successive governments worked to the detriment of children's rights.
In the late 1980s, the UK had adopted a positive approach to the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders. The use of juvenile custodial measures was significantly low, due to a more widespread use of diversion, both from trial and from custody. The juvenile justice system was modified and the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts, renamed youth courts, was extended to include 17-year-olds1. The number of known youth offenders (aged 10-16 years) fell and the juvenile prison population dropped significantly.
However, in the 1990s attitudes changed in the United Kingdom and a more punitive approach was adopted. A number of incidents were responsible for this change in attitude. The media covered the urban riots and disturbances in 1991, in Blackbird Leys, Ely and Tyneside, in such a way that suggested there were groups of dangerous minors who were out of the reach of the criminal justice system. Throughout the ‘90s, stories of one-boy crime waves2 were often reported by the press, who criticised a system - the police and the courts – that was powerless to deal with them because they were under the age of criminal responsibility. These children were depicted as remorseless, hardened criminals, with no hope of rehabilitation.
These widely publicised events placed youth crime and juvenile delinquency high on the political agenda from 1991. Political focus shifted from youth crime in general to targeting persistent young offenders supposedly guilty of a large share of crimes. Locking these children up to re-educate them for the benefit of themselves and society was considered a more appropriate and effective response than diversion from the criminal justice system. Against this backdrop of growing fear about youth crime, the story broke about the murder of James Bulger.
THE INDIVIDUAL CASE – THE FACTS
In 1993, two 10-year-old boys took two-year-old James from a shopping centre. That afternoon, they led him around Liverpool, repeatedly assaulted him, finally beating him unconscious and leaving him on a railway track, where he was cut in half by a train.
After a police hunt for the killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were arrested and charged with his murder. They were 11 when they stood trial in an adult court in November 1993. They were sentenced to be detained indefinitely at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The trial judge, Mr Justice Morland, recommended that they serve a minimum term of eight years. The Lord Chief Justice then recommended that the minimum should be 10 years. However, the then Home Secretary Michael Howard, raised the tariff, so that the boys would only be eligible for release once they had served 15 years.
However, in the second half of the decade this tariff, and the manner in which the Home Secretary reached the decision on the tariff, was challenged. Firstly, in 1997, the House of Lords ruled that the Home Secretary had acted unlawfully in setting the higher tariff3. The European Court of Human Rights agreed and further ruled that the boys had not been given a fair trial. On 26 October 2000, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, restored the original eight-year term. Consequently, once Thompson and Venables had served this reduced term, the decision as to whether they would be released lay with the Parole Board.
THE MEDIA AND PUBLIC OPINION
The murder of James Bulger prompted a media frenzy, not only on a national scale but on a international scale sparking the media’s interest around the world.
The pre-trial media coverage of the case was so extensive that counsel for the boys argued that the jury and witnesses could have been prejudiced rendering the trial unfair. While the trial judge accepted that the coverage had gone beyond what was normal, to the point of saturation, he concluded that this would not unfairly prejudice the trial. When the trial started, the media not only reported the evidence given in court but also analysed the reaction of the boys to the trial and the evidence that they heard in detail. In the days that followed the conviction of the two boys, a glut of stories and analysis appeared in newspapers, TV and radio.
UK media coverage of the crime and the trial deeply affected public opinion not just about the perpetrators of the crime but also about juvenile criminals and in fact all children. However, it was not the level of coverage that most significant in its effect on public opinion, but the approach that much of the UK media took in its coverage of the case. The media vilified the boys in an excessively sensational manner with “undiluted, vitriolic editorialising”.4 On the 25 November 1993, the day after the judgement, the Daily Star (a tabloid) ran the photos of the boys with the headline “How do you feel now you little bastards?”5, a question that echoed the shouts from one of the members of James Bulger’s family after the conviction was handed down. The media felt confident enough of the public’s mood to vilify the killers to an excessive degree and demand that they ‘rot in jail’, without fear of criticism or falling circulation.6 The media felt justified in presenting the killers as evil, not just because of the brutality of the murder, but also because the trial judge had described the murder as “an act of unparalleled evil and barbarity”,and the conduct of the boys as “both cunning and very wicked”.
The media went further than just reacting to the case. The Associated Press, owners of the Daily Mail (a tabloid), applied to the courts for the boys’ anonymity to be dropped on conviction. The press desperately wanted to put names and faces to the killers. While the judge recognised the paramouncy rule of best interests of the child (Children Act 1989) and the importance of rehabilitation on the one hand, he also accepted that useful investigations, which were of great public interest, into why these children carried out the murder could be undertaken if their identities were released.
The releasing of identities allowed the media to delve deep into these children’s lives, in an attempt to find explanations for the crimes. ''How could it happen? was asked over and over again, but the answers provided were generally unillumintating and revealed a good deal more about the values of the British Press than the reasons for the killing…The press corp was indeed in a vengeful mood. Editorials expressed outrage, demanded retribution and offered a range of policy proposals designed to exact increasingly punitive measures from the criminal justice system. The ‘demonising’ of Thompson and Venables was so relentless in the British press that one observer was prompted to describe it as, “the kind of outbreak of moral condemnation that is usually reserved for the enemy in times of war”.7
The press were further outraged by the conditions in which the boys would live while at the Secure Training Centres, referring to it as 'luxury' and decrying the fact that the boys had been rewarded for their crime - and all at the taxpayer's expense.
The media launched an attack on the criminal justice system, which they declared was too soft. They harked back to the times of the short sharp shock, ignoring the failure of those schemes in preventing re-offending. The justice system had moved too far away from the word ‘penal’. People wanted justice and punitive measures and there was nothing wrong with that, according to the press. As for Thompson and Venables, there was no reason to treat them as children, as they had forfeited all rights to be treated as such when they had killed the toddler.
However, the press went further than simply demonising the boys. The manner of coverage gave the impression that a large majority of children were delinquent and engaged in criminal and violent acts. The question was not why had this happened, but why had it not happened earlier. The media overlooked the fact that there had been only 27 murders committed by children in the previous 250 years in the UK.
The media also questioned the innocence of childhood. The ‘evil’ of the crime, and that of the two boys, was projected on childhood and all children in general. As Marina Warner asserted in 1994 that “ the child has never been seen as such a menacing enemy as today. Never before have children been so saturated with all the power of projected monstrousness to excite repulsion – and even terror”8
The media also analysed society as a whole. The breakdown of the nuclear family, the moral fabric of society and the availability of material, such as Child’s Play 3 (video nasty)9, which could corrupt a young mind, were all subject to indepth debate. The Sun newspaper even launched a campaign for everyone to burn their video nasties for the sake of all children. Further, debates about which pillar of society was responsible for moral guidance in society put the State and the Church at loggerheads.
Interest in the boys did not die completely after their conviction. In fact, speculation and news stories about their treatment in the secure unit, acts of violence and their progress continually appeared in the newspapers throughout their detention.
The challenges made by the lawyers for the boys to the fairness of the trial and their sentence kept the media interested in the story. Certain sections of the media covered the challenges made in the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights with disgust and the decisions made, especially by a non-UK court, with indignation.
The ECtHR decision, and Lord Woolf’s subsequent lowering of the tariff to eight years meant that the boys were eligible for parole seven years earlier than had been anticipated by the public and the media. The Parole Board’s decision that Thompson and Venables, now 18-years-old, would be released on life licence, rather than moved on to a young offenders institution, caused apoplexy within newspapers, such as The News of the World, The Daily Mail and The Sun,and a renewal of their attack on the criminal justice system. The Sun's front page ran the headline 'Crazy', printing quotes from the ‘disgusted family of James Bulger’ at the decision. The broadsheets tended to view the decision in a more rational way, coming to the conclusion that, although unpopular, it was right that the two would not spend time in an institution, which could erode the beneficial rehabilitative work that had been done with them.
The tabloid press, in what can be regarded as a thinly veiled attempt to mobilise lynch mobs, gleefully reported calls for the two to be hunted down and punished. Sunday’s News of the World quoted James Bulger, uncle of James, stating, “Killing is too good for those two. There’s going to be no hiding place for them.” The same newspaper reported Susan Venables’ fears for the safety of her son under the headline “Bulger Killers Dead in Four Weeks”.
Following a court ruling, the media is now prevented from printing anything that might lead to the identification of the boys. However, certain sections of the press have said that if stories come to their attention, which they think the public ought to know, they will be ‘forced’ to print them.
PUBLIC REACTION AND PUBLIC OPINION
The public’s reaction to the murder of James Bulger was one of horror, outrage and anger. These feelings fuelled by the media, who were able to provide those interested with every minute detail of the crime and the boys’ lives. Emotion was running so high that it was almost a taboo to express sympathy or understanding for Thompson and Venables.
The reaction in Merseyside, where the crime took place, was particularly acute. Before the two boys were arrested, a 12-year-old was taken in for questioning by the police. Local people responded to the news by attacking the boy's home and driving the family out. The boy was released without charge. When it was discovered that the perpetrators were aged 10, public fury overflowed. Angry mobs drove the families of Venables and Thompson out of their houses and they had to be re-housed for their own protection. When the boys were driven to the magistrates’ court in Liverpool crowds threw stones and banged on the sides of the vans. Cries of ‘hang ‘em’ emanated from the crowd outside Preston Crown Court10 when the verdict had been given.
There are a number of reasons why the public became so engrossed in the story11. Images – photos and videos – are far more powerful than words. To help them find the killers, the police released CCTV footage of what appeared to be boys aged 10-14 leading the toddler from the shopping centre. This CCTV footage provided an image that the media would use repeatedly, when detailing the horrific crime. This image “not only tapped powerful emotional roots but also created the opportunity to involve the public in resolving the mystery of the boys assailants.”12.
In addition, the public felt that they were part of the case, not only because the police had asked the public for assistance in finding the perpetrators, but also because there was a feeling that society as a whole was guilty. This was particularly highlighted by the media’s verbal attacks on the ‘Liverpool 38’ – the 38 witnesses who had seen the two boys with James, but had done nothing in the main to intervene. It was felt that society had truly failed.
The release of the identities, and therefore photographs of the children, once they had been convicted, further captured the public’s imagination and prolonged the fascination and the dissection of the case.
The public interest in the case never died, and stories about the case still produce strong reactions. In the run up to the release of the boys, old emotions were awakened, producing a second public outcry in relation to the case – a large section of society believed that these children should be punished properly by serving time in an adult prison.
A poll published by a Liverpool newspaper following the news of Thompson and Venables' upcoming release showed that the majority of people on Merseyside (Liverpool, where the murder was committed) were against their imminent release. The poll coincided with a protest outside the London headquarters of the parole board. Nearly 42,000 responded to the telephone and Internet poll by the Liverpool Echo. Over 35,000 said that the pair should not yet be released. 13
INFLUENCE OF PUBLIC OPINION AND THE MEDIA
The strong reaction of the media and the public affected both Thompson and Venables and the UK juvenile justice system as a whole.
When the tariff of eight years was recommended by the trial judge, there was an outcry – the sentence was seen as far too lenient. The Lord Chief Justice then increased the tariff to 10 years. However, the public and the press called on the Home Secretary to further increase the tariff. The Sun newspaper headed up the campaign, printing cut out coupons that readers could sign and send to the Home Secretary, which demanded that the boys be detained for life. “The coupons linked with the Sun newspaper followed a campaign under headlines such as ‘80,000 call T.V. to say Bulger killers must rot in jail’. Each coupon contained the words "Dear Home Secretary, I agree with Ralph and Denise Bulger that the boys who killed their son James should stay in jail for LIFE.”14 A total of 22,638 items of correspondence were received directly by the Home Office at the time of the House of Lords decision. This comprised 21,281 Sun newspaper coupons in support of a whole life tariff, and 1,357 letters and small petitions. The Bulger family had also submitted a petition containing 278,300 signatures15. The Home Office only received 33 letters agreeing with the judiciary or asking for a lesser tariff. Under this immense pressure, the Home Secretary increased the term to 15 years, citing public concern about the case, evidenced by letters and decisions and the need to maintain public confidence in the justice system, as evidence for setting a higher tariff.16 In its ruling on the legality of the Home Secretary’s setting of the tariff, the House of Lords, said that the he should not have taken public opinion or petitions into account in reaching his decision.
Influence also extended to the jury, who felt they were being pressurised during the trial by a vigilante mob.17 It could be argued that the Judge, who agreed to the release of the boys’ identities in 1993, was also swayed by public opinion and media pressure.
Emotions were running high among the public, firstly when the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf ruled in October 2000 that the young men's process of parole should begin immediately, and also in the following year in the run up to the release of the boys. The family of Robert Thompson were moved having been attacked. Threats made by James' father that he was going to track down and kill the boys were printed in the press. The Sun also threatened to hunt Thompson and Venables down wherever they ended up, which is perhaps the epitome of 'off with their heads' journalism. Consequently, on the basis of the authorities' fear for the safety of Thompson and Venables, it was decided that certain measures had to be taken. The boys were given new identities, histories and passports. It was also ruled that the pairs’ true identity would be protected for life. The media are therefore prohibited from printing anything that might lead to their identification or location18.
However, the public mood did not mirror the emotion of 1993. Of course a large proportion of the public, wanted the boys to receive ‘real’ punishment by spending time in the tougher regime of an adult prison, an opinion reflected in the tabloid media. The broadsheets tended to reflect other side of public opinion, that all the resources that had been dedicated to the successful rehabilitation of these boys would be wasted if they were sent to a prison.19 Eight years later, more people were willing to see the crime, not just in terms of the ‘evil’ of the two boys, but as the collective failure of society to address the problems these boys had faced growing up. In addition, the public was starting to question the wisdom of trying the boys in an adult court.20“It wasn’t popular to raise such questions in 1993; now it’s less inflammatory to point out that we have responsibilities as a society –even towards children who kill.”21 Having said this, in June 2001, public feeling was still running high enough to prompt David Blunkett, the Home Secretary at the time, to state that there was no public interest in pursuing the perpetrators, following the decision of the Parole Board to release the pair. His comments marked the first time that a Home Secretary had felt it necessary to announce and explain a decision by the independent parole board.
At the time of the Bulger murder and trial the Conservative party was in power. Although the rhetoric of the party was punitive ('short, sharp shock'), in reality the Government actually introduced legislation and policies that dramatically lowered the number of children in detention centres and the use of judicial proceedings.22 The Government published information about the cost of incarceration and its damaging effects on juveniles, asserting that custodial establishments were ‘schools of crime'. At the same time, the Government pumped money into community schemes and alternatives to deprivation of liberty. Those working in the field, including children's NGOs, lauded the results of a number of these policies.
At beginning of the 1990s, the Government’s progressive stance began to change because of public disquiet over persistent young offenders. However the most dramatic change in the Government's approach to juvenile justice occurred after the murder of James Bulger. In light of the Bulger case, John Major, the Prime Minister at the time, made the following statement about juvenile crime – “We must understand a little less and condemn a little more”. However, the Government's response went far beyond rhetoric.
“Within weeks of the toddler’s death the then Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced proposals to the House of Commons to establish new institutions for 12-14 year old children.”23 In 1995, the Committee on the Rights of the Child voiced concerns about the compatibility of the juvenile justice system with the CRC, especially in terms of these new secure training centres.24 The secure training centres (shaped by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) were just one of a spate of measures introduced, whose focus was more on retribution than justice and the welfare of the perpetrator. Changes eroded the guarantees previously afforded to juveniles, increased the likelihood of juveniles being detained and lengthened the sentences that they could receive.25 These changes were implemented despite the fact that statistics showed that juvenile crime had actually fallen from 1983 to 1993, reflecting the success of the more progressive policies of the Conservative Government.26 At the time, the Conservatives were losing popularity and believed more punitive measures would win back voters.
In 1997, in the run up to the general election, parties tried to 'out tough' each other on law and order issues27, in order to secure the votes of a public worried about crime and satisfy their demands for more punitive action. Juvenile justice had never been such a partisan issue as it was in the 1997 General Election.
When Labour took power in 1997, the attitude to juvenile justice did not change from that of the Conservatives, remaining predominantly punitive. This is particularly interesting as it marked a shift from the old Labour Government, who had developed policies28 based on a welfare approach to juvenile delinquency, addressing social problems through state assistance and allocation of appropriate resources. The welfare approach of the 1960s reflected the mood of the country, which believed delinquency lay in family problems and social deprivation. This was no longer the opinion of the public in 1997, who were more encouraged by the Labour slogan “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”29. It seemed that the new Government was happy to play ‘penal populism’ in its first few years in power. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 put their rhetoric into legislation and built on the tough approaches, which were introduced under the Conservative Government. The principle aim of the youth justice system was now to prevent offending by children and young persons.30 The most significant change to juvenile justice legislation was the abolition of the rebuttable presumption that the children aged 10-14 are doli incapax (incapable of committing an offence)31. The change in law meant that children, who may have avoided being criminally processed prior to the Act, would now face court, as they were deemed to have the same criminal intent and maturity as an adult. NACRO asserts that this change in law was arguably a direct effect of the Bulger case and the demand of the public and the media for tougher action.32 The Act also extended the provision that allows the courts to draw adverse inferences from silences, to children aged 10-14 years.33 Among other more punitive measures, the Act introduced curfews for children as young as 10, even where they have not been convicted of an offence34. A rash of punitive guidelines accompanied this new legislation.35 The changes seen post Bulger represented “the most major shift in youth justice policy [last] century”36The crime committed by the two boys was used by politicians to justify crusades not just against juvenile criminals (e.g. abolishing doli incapax) but also in other areas (such as banning videonasties).
“The ‘politicisation’ of juvenile crime has now taken such a hold (in England and Wales in particular) that it is difficult to imagine how [the Labour] government can break clear (even if it wished, and there is scant evidence for this) from the firmly established rhetoric of its ‘no excuses’ agenda.”37 International influence
The reaction of successive Governments to international pressure and obligations has been mixed. In December 1991, the UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in 1992. However, at the time that the UK should have been developing policies that were in compliance with the CRC, more punitive measures were introduced, to allay public fears about juvenile delinquency. The reaction to the criticisms of the juvenile justice system in the 1995 concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was, in terms of rhetoric at least, negative,38 a position reflected in the press.39
The decision of the European Court of Human of Human Rights40 that the Home Secretary did not have the power to set the 15 year tariff and that the trial itself was unfair, violating Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights41, was greeted with hostility by the UK press and a sense of resignation by the Government.
The Government referred the decision on the tariff to the Lord Chief Justice for a full review. In one way, the decision by the Government to hand the decision over to the Lord Chief Justice demonstrated that, under international pressure, the Government would 'ignore' media and public reaction to an international decision and act, albeit in a limited way, to implement the decision. However, by referring the decision to the Lord Chief Justice the Government were effectively passing the buck to the judiciary, claiming that their hands were tied by the European Court and so absolving themselves of much of the blame ultimate decision of the parole board to release the boys.
To rectify the European Court’s criticisms about the trial procedure for children in adult courts, the Government issued a Practice Direction on 16 February 2000, which purported to adjust the proceedings in the crown court to accommodate the needs of children. However, the Government did not address the low age of criminal responsibility or the fact that children as young as 10 can be tried in an adult court.
The Bulger case demonstrates how an individual case can have a profound effect on public opinion and on government policies regarding juvenile justice. When we look at the changes in policy added directly after Bulger, in addition to the changes in legislation made under the Labour Government since 1997 we can see an increase in the level of punitive approaches, not seen in the UK in such a short period of time in the 20th century.
Although the Bulger case was unrespresentative of the overwhelming majority of youth crime, this rare case, skewed attitudes of the public to all juvenile delinquents, who consequently demanded that the Government bring in more punitive policies for all children in conflict with the law42. The case also shows the impact of media coverage of such a crime, which fuelled both public opinion and pushed the Government to listen to public demands for action.
BIBLIOGRAPHY - Franklin B. and Petley J.: ‘Killing the Age of Innocence: Newspaper Reporting of the Death of James Bulger’, in ‘Thatcher’s Children?: Politics, Childhood and Society on the 1980s and the 1990s’ Ed Picler J. and Wagg. S, Falmer Press 1996
- Goldson B.: ‘A Just Measure of Pain? From Bulger to Medway – the contemporary politics of child punishment. What is to be done?’, childRIGHT No155 (April) 1999 p5-6
- Goldson, B.: ‘Children in Trouble: State Responses to Juvenile Crime, in Scraton, P (ed) 'Childhood' in 'Crisis'?’ London, University College London Press, 1997
- Hyland J.: ‘Britain: Second juror condemns jailing of two boys for the killing of James Bulger’, 11 November 1999, World Socialist Web Site
- Littlechild B.: 'Young offenders, punitive policies and the rights of children'Critical Social Policy, Vol 17 (4) in 1997
- Morrison, B.: ‘A Punishment to fit the crime: Last week’s ruling which could soon free the killers of James Bulger shows that our attitude to the child murderers has matured’, The Independent 20 Oct. 2000
- NACRO ‘Public Opinion and youth justice’ Youth crime briefing, December 2001
- Slaughter B.: ‘The Jamie Bulger case: Release of Thompson and Venables sparks rightwing media backlash’, 27 June 2001, World Socialist Web Site
1 Criminal Justice Act 1991
2 E.g. The Guardian detailed the cases of ‘boomerang boy’, ‘rat boy’, ‘spider boy’, ‘blip boy’, ‘the singing detective’, - persistent offenders, whose cases had been documented by the press in the past. “He's been arrested 80 times, he's blamed for 1,000 offences. Can anyone save him?” The Guardian Thursday 25 March 1999
3 Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte V. and Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte T. 1997
4 Franklin B. and Petley J.: ‘Killing the Age of Innocence: Newspaper Reporting of the Death of James Bulger’ in ‘Thatcher’s Children?: Politics, Childhood and Society on the 1980s and the 1990s’ Ed Picler J. and Wagg. S, Falmer Press 1996
5The Mail ran with the headline - “The Evil and the Innocent” (November 25th), while the Telegraph recalled on the same day that Venables was born on Friday 13th.
6 Morrison, B.: ‘A Punishment to fit the crime: Last week’s ruling which could soon free the killers of James Bulger shows that our attitude to the child murderers has matured’, The Independent 20 Oct. 2000
7 quoted in Franklin B. and Petley J.: ‘Killing the Age of Innocence: Newspaper Reporting of the Death of James Bulger’ in ‘Thatcher’s Children?: Politics, Childhood and Society on the 1980s and the 1990s’ Ed Picler J. and Wagg. S, Falmer Press 1996
9 It was asserted in the trial, and raised as a possibility in the judgment, that exposure to the horror film 'Child’s Play 3' may have influenced the actions of the boys, which seemed to mimic scenes in the film.
10 The trial was moved to Preston because it was felt that the boys would not receive a fair trial in Merseyside.
11 The reasons for the public's extreme reaction to children who commit murders has been discussed in the main paper.
12 Franklin B. and Petley J.: ‘Killing the Age of Innocence: Newspaper Reporting of the Death of James Bulger’ in ‘Thatcher’s Children?: Politics, Childhood and Society on the 1980s and the 1990s’ Ed Picler J. and Wagg. S, Falmer Press 1996
13 Keating M.: ‘Expose freed Bulger killers, urges mother’, The Guardian, Tuesday June 19, 2001
14 Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte V. and Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte T per Lord Steyn
15 Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte V. and Reg. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte T per Lord Steyn
16 Decision letters of the Home Secretary 22 July 1994
17 Hyland J.: ‘Britain: Second juror condemns jailing of two boys for the killing of James Bulger’, 11 November 1999, World Socialist Web Site
18 Venables and another v News Group Newspapers Ltd and others, Family Division ,  1 All ER 908,  2 WLR 1038,  1 FLR 791, varied 11 July 2001 to take into consideration non-liability of Internet Service Provider if they were unaware of the material being posted. Slaughter B.: ‘The Jamie Bulger case: Release of Thompson and Venables sparks rightwing media backlash’, 27 June 2001, World Socialist Web Site
19 Morrison, B.: ‘A Punishment to fit the crime: Last week’s ruling which could soon free the killers of James Bulger shows that our attitude to the child murderers has matured’, The Independent 20 Oct. 2000
22 e.g. Criminal Justice Act 1982
23 Goldson B.: ‘A Just Measure of Pain? From Bulger to Medway – the contemporary politics of child punishment. What is to be done?’ childRIGHT No155 (April) 1999 p5-6
24 Consideration of Reports, submitted by States Parties under Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child CRC/C/15/Add.34
25 Changes included amendments to Home Office Guidelines, which meant that children would only be cautioned once before being prosecuted (Home Office Circular 18/1994 para.8). Omitting youth as a category of vulnerable offenders in the Code for Crown Prosecutors (1994). Provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act included; the court being permitted to adverse draw inferences from the silence of anyone (adult or juvenile) questioned or charged (s35); increasing the maximum sentence for young offenders from 12 to 24 months (s17); extending the special sentencing provisions for serious offences to 10-13 year olds (s16(3)) and enabling their case to be heard in the Crown Court, whereas previously the Crown court would only hear homicide cases; establishing secure training units for non-serious but persistent offenders aged 12-14 (s1) and the naming and shaming of young convicted offenders by removing their anonymity (s49).
26 While the decline in the juvenile population (19%) accounts for this in part, actual crime figures showed that in 1993 under 17s represented 25% of all known offenders compared to 36% 10 years previously. (Home Office Statistics). However, “despite all evidence to the contrary, MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee in their inquiry into juvenile crime in 1993 stated they did not believe such figures, and that their post bags from constituents told them a very different story" Littlechild B.: 'Young offenders, punitive policies and the rights of children'Critical Social Policy Vol 17 (4) in 1997
27 For example the Labour Part proposed a consultation on the introduction of curfews for those under 11 years of age (Independent 22 February 1996 - ‘Labour Plans Curfew for William and Gang’)
28 e.g. Children and Young Persons Act 1969
29 This slogan was coined by Tony Blair in 1995
30 Section 37(1)
31 Section 34
32 NACRO ‘Public Opinion and youth justice’ Youth crime briefing December 2001
33 Section 35
34 Section 14
35 It must be noted that Labour’s juvenile justice policies were not entirely focused on retribution, prevention and rehabilitation also formed part of the approach to juvenile crime.
36 Littlechild B.: ‘Young offenders, punitive policies and the rights of children’,
Critical Social Policy Vol 17 (4) in 1997
37 Goldson B.: ‘A Just Measure of Pain? From Bulger to Medway – the contemporary politics of child punishment. What is to be done?’ childRIGHT No155 (April) 1999 p5-6
38 “I have said that the committee [on the rights of the child] which carried out that investigation behaved like a kangaroo court, and treated the British Government officials disgracefully” The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. McClean) (House of Commons, Hansard Col 784 26 April 1995)
39 “How dare the UN lecture us. Failing our young. That’s codswallop” (Daily Mail, 28 January 1995)
40 T and V v. UK, No 24724/94 and 24888/94, 16.12.99; (2000) 30 EHRR 121
41 their trial had not been fair because they had been tried as adults in an adult court, with adult procedures and formalities, which had prevented their full understanding and participation in the trial.
42 Littlechild B.: ‘Young offenders, punitive policies and the rights of children’