Back in 2001 there was a huge row over the impending release of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who had killed James Bulger eight years earlier.
One of the most remarkable contributions made to the discussion that year was an article by Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn on June 26. Yes. That’s right. Richard Littlejohn. In The Sun. At the time I contacted him to say that I would be nominating him for ‘humanitarian of the year’. Please don’t, he replied. It would ruin his reputation. It’s reproduced below.
The repulsive sight of men and women baying for blood by Richard Littlejohn
It is impossible to feel anything other than deep unease over the release of the killers of James Bulger. This is how European “human rights” legislation works in practice.
That British courts and elected British politicians can be overruled by unaccountable lawyers from countries with such shining human rights records as Albania, Romania and the former Soviet Union is deplorable.
But that is the effect of Blair’s decision to sign away our ancient liberties in order to create a taxpayer-fuelled gravy train for lawyers such as his wife and her colleagues at Nonces ‘R’ Us.
The European Court takes no account of British public opinion or of our elected representatives. These foreign judges care not a fig for the wave of revulsion which surrounded the torture and murder of a two-year-old toddler. But that is almost a side issue. Sooner or later the nettle of the release of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson would have to been grasped.
Would their serving another five or even seven years – as originally ordered by former Home Secretary Michael Howard until overruled by the European Court – have made it any easier? Would the mob feel that justice had been seen to be done? Would the thirst for vengeance have been slaked?
It is understandable that hatred stills burns in the hearts of James Bulger’s immediate family.
But who are these other people threatening to hunt down Venables and Thompson? How can they still be so angry over the killing more than eight years ago of someone they never knew? And what do they think gives them the right to dispense their own kind of justice? Given the mentality of these people, they’d probably get it wrong and lynch Terry Venables.
My continuing support for Tony Martin has led to accusations that I am in favour of vigilantism. Wrong. There is a world of difference between defending yourself in your own home and appointing yourself judge, jury and executioner in a case in which you have no personal involvement.
What are these people going to do if and when they confront Thompson and Venables? Are they really going to kill them? How will they do it?
One of the most distressing incidents during the murder investigation came when police picked up two other boys for questioning. Assuming that these were the murderers, a gang of people attacked the police van carrying the boys and attempted to get at them.
What would they have done if they had managed to rip the doors off the van? Would they have pulled them out, beaten them to within an inch of their life and strung them up from the nearest lamp post without bothering to ascertain they’d got the right boys? Would that have been justice?
I was as horrified as anyone at the murder of James. I couldn’t bring myself to read the graphic reports of the court case. But I was also horrified by the lynch mob, grown men and women baying for the blood of two ten-year-old boys.
And they were ten years old at the time, not fully-formed adults. That does not excuse the enormity of their crime. There can be no redemption for them. But there is a difference between the actions of a pre-pubescent child and those of a mature adult.
There are men walking the streets now who have committed equally horrific crimes. I don’t remember any threats of vigilante action when the Brighton bomber was released.
There are murderers in Northern Ireland who walked free after only a few months under the terms of the “peace” deal. What about the Warrington bombers, who blew two schoolboys to bits? These were all adults who acted in cold blood, not 10-year-old boys.
But to the best of my knowledge, none of those currently vowing to avenge James Bulger made any similar threats against them.
I happen to think that Michael Howard got it about right. Fifteen years is a life sentence to a 10-year-old. But Britain voted for Blair and the rulings of the European Court are all part of the ticket, much as we may hate it.
If Venables and Thompson are really frightened for their safety then their lawyers could always argue for their continued detention for their own protection.
Some people have said that if anything happens to them then the European judges and the parole board which set them free will have blood on their hands.
No they won’t. The only people with blood on their hands will be those with blood on their hands.