I can't begin to imagine the horror of what Jamie Bulger's parents have had to go through over the last 17 years. I know that if something similar happened to my little girl, I'd be devestated. Should it be done by an adult while we're out here, that adult would be hanged - and I genuinely believe my principled objections to capital punishment might well crumble in the face of such a horrendous event.
Here's the point though - even hanging the culprit wouldn't bring her back. And nothing that we do to Robert Thompson and Jon Venables can bring James Bulger back either.
Here's another point - a lot of emphasis is put on the entirely understandable anger that Denise Bulger in particular exhibits towards her son's killers, as though this should some how influence how they are treated. Imagine however, that her reaction had been the stoic one of Gordon Wilson on the night of his daughter's murder by the IRA. His pain was no less, but his personality combined with his religious faith clearly affected how he reacted to the loss of his child.
I first became aware of the reports regarding Jon Venables return to gaol through a Facebook update of an old friend which read "Good riddance to Jon venables, I hope he gets put in a cell with a big hairy paedo... I'd pay to watch the big brother version of these two getting aquainted... Oh and why oh why at 27 is his identity being protected...." (incidentally said friend lives in Ireland, so it's not his taxes that are paying to protect their identity). This was then followed up with a comment by him "As for Thomson... keep looking over your shoulder son..." Sadly, this attitude seemed typical of the gross over reaction of some in the media.
(Incidentally, I find the above reaction particularly shocking as it is from a friend who professes to be a Christian - and yet he seems to forget the principle that all people are equal in the eyes of God.)
There appears to be a growing body of opinion that somehow we should know what specific terms of his release Venables breached to be locked up again - despite everything, it does seem probable it was more than a mere technical breach. One press report suggested he'd been to Liverpool several times - including attending a Premier League game at Goodison. If so, then the man's an idiot - there was a significant if small possibility he could be recognised (I met an old primary school friend some years back, having not seen him since we both left primary school, and we quickly recognised each other). A member of the Question Time audience on Thursday suggested we should know as it would help put the issue to rest. In fact, as the above quote from Facebook shows, this debate will only be put to rest when both Venables and Thompson are dead - so we could be dealing with this for another 70 years!
The Question Time panel, with the except of Carol Vorderman, generally agreed that in this case the law should the law should be allowed to proceed in it's own way in the full knowledge of the facts, as opposed to the more emotional response that many in the public feel. This has to be the correct way to proceed - if we start dealing with this in an emotional manner based on incomplete or inaccurate press reports, or even the feelings of the mother, then we end up with a situation where justice and the rule of law cannot prevail.
One final thought - Venables and Thompson were arrested on the 20th February 1993 for Jamie's murder. Six days later, two children - Jonathan Ball, who was only a year old than Jamie, and Tim Parry, aged 12, were murdered in nearby Warrington. As far as I know, no one has ever been convicted of their murders - but if we did find the adults who killed them, and convicted them - their murderers are unlikely to spend much if any time in gaol under the Good Friday Agreement. Is murdering a child somehow more acceptable when it's being done by an adult in pursuit of a cause?