Reformers welcome Bulger decision
LONDON, England -- Children's charities and penal reform groups have welcomed the decision by the UK Parole Board to free the teenage killers of Jamie Bulger.
Ian Sparks, Chief Executive of The Children's Society, said the rehabilitation of the two killers would be a mark of "our compassion and maturity as a society."
He said: "The shock that we all felt at the time and the collective grief expressed after the event must not now become a call for retribution.
"We believe that all children are capable of both good and bad actions but that no child is evil.
"Our responsibility, as a society, is to learn from this tragedy and to respond to acts of violence committed by young children with a belief that rehabilitation is not only possible, but that it must be the goal we strive to achieve.
"We also believe that it is a mark of our compassion and maturity as a society that we take on a collective responsibility for nurturing and, where necessary, correcting our children.
"We need to remember that Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were children when they committed murder.
"They have had eight years locked in secure accommodation where they have received the intensive therapeutic support and rehabilitation appropriate to children who have committed serious crimes.
"There is no excuse for violence of any sort against children. When children themselves commit serious crimes we have to work with them to prevent them repeating that cycle of violence in later life."
Paul Cavadino, director of the crime reduction charity Nacro (formerly the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders), also said he welcomed the Parole Board's decision.
"Though their crime was awful, eight years' detention is a heavy punishment for a child," he said.
"No good can come of the incessant demand to extract the last ounce of punishment out of two boys who committed a terrible crime when they were seriously disturbed children.
"From the moment these two boys were charged with James Bulger's murder to the present day, too many people have confused the need for justice with the anger and distress that many understandably feel about their crime."
He continued: "The public will be better protected by releasing them now under supervision than leaving them to spend time in the prison system, which could undo much of the treatment and rehabilitation they have received.
"We as a society must be strong enough to allow two young men who offended so grievously as young boys to retake their place in the community.
"It would serve no-one's interests to wreck their rehabilitation and jeopardise their safety by hounding them down or subjecting them to the odium and hatred which has characterised so much of the debate about them."
A spokeswoman for the Howard League for Penal Reform said: "This is such a tragedy for all concerned, but it is a unique tragedy and there are no lessons to be learnt for anybody else.
"We would rather see the media attention minimised so it can be a healing process for those involved."
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "I believe that the tariffs imposed by Michael Howard (the previous Home Secretary) of 15 years were more appropriate given the gravity of this offence.
"If there was such objection to sending them to an adult prison, then other arrangements could, and should, have been made for their secure detention, and thought should be given to doing this in any comparable cases in the future.
"However, given that the Lord Chief Justice has set a tariff of eight years, which means that the Parole Board is able to order their immediate release, anonymity is crucial and must be respected by the public and the media.
"I send my deepest sympathy to all of James Bulger's family, particularly Ralph Bulger and Denise Fergus at this difficult time for them."
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