Jon Venables should not be released, writes Shelagh Fogarty

22 September 2023, 15:33 | Updated: 22 September 2023, 15:41

Jon Venables should not be released, writes Shelagh Fogarty.
Jon Venables should not be released, writes Shelagh Fogarty. Picture: Getty
Shelagh Fogarty

By Shelagh Fogarty

Jon Venables is a danger to children, and this is about keeping babies and toddlers safe.

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I don't think he should be released.

He has shown time and again that he has a dangerous sexual interest in children, he has a capacity to view images in which children are being seriously harmed, and he seeks it out for pleasure and entertainment.

He is not a safe adult man.

I do think we should be able to see more of parole hearings. When the parole board says our primary interest is in keeping the public safe - well we don't normally call little babies and toddlers 'the public', do we?

Say it as it is, it's about keeping babies and toddlers safe, when it comes to Jon Venables, whatever name he goes by these days.

I'm judging him as an adult man here, not as a ten-year-old boy. I sat within feet of him when he was a ten-year-old boy for four weeks during that trial in Preston Crown Court, and I came away from it very distressed by it all.

Having sat through that trial from start to finish, I don't think it was the right way to establish the facts.

I think, because the children were ten when they killed him, I think there is a better way than an adult criminal trial. I don't think we need to treat ten-year-olds like that, no matter what they've done.

Think of the times when you were a child and you did really minor things.

The right thing to do is to step in as a parent, as an adult, as a teacher, and make clear to that child that they've crossed a boundary, and boy did those two boys cross a boundary.

There had to be consequences for those two boys. They needed to be removed from their society.

The crime needed to be assessed properly, of course it did, but when I say punishment I mean consequences, the removal of their normal life.

The idea that those consequences shouldn't also involve some kind of therapeutic treatment for children - of course it should. If we abandon children and all hope in children then we abandon everything.

But they are not children now, they are men now, and one of them has abided by the deal that society struck with him. He served his time, he took his punishment.

He is on licence for life, the police and the authorities will be aware of where he is for life, and he is abiding by that successfully, and is able to have freedoms because of that.

Again that won't make the family of James Bulger or any victim of an awful crime happy necessarily, but it feels right when the person was ten when they committed the crime.

Jon Venables - different case altogether. He is an adult man who has repeatedly broken the terms of that agreement that he made with society, he's repeatedly broken the deal, and he's done it in a way that is deeply insidious and dangerous.

He is a danger to children.

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