Child killers in the news


Last week in the UK, two notorious child killers were back in the news. The authorities are being applauded for keeping one out of gaol, and condemned for releasing the other.

Ashworth Hospital is a high security psychiatric hospital in Maghull, Merseyside, England

If that statement sounds contradictory, it won’t after some qualification. Ian Brady, one of the so-called Moors Murderers, was given concurrent life sentences in 1966 for three murders, two of them especially heinous. In 1985 he was found to be insane, and was transferred to Ashworth Hospital, one of three so-called special hospitals in the UK.

The classic mugshots of Moors Murderers: psychopath Ian Brady
and blonde she devil Myra Hindley as issued by Manchester Police.

In November 1993, Jon Venables was convicted of the murder of two-year-old James Bulger. Crimes of that nature are thankfully extremely rare, but it was not the age of the victim that was the truly shocking feature of this case, rather it was the ages of the perpetrators: both Venables and his co-conspirator were themselves only 10 years old.

The handling of these two was unique; while today most people would accept that offenders of that age should not be treated as adults, however heinous their crimes, their sentences were all about rehabilitation with no element of retribution or deterrence. They were released after a mere eight years without spending a day in prison, and were granted lifelong anonymity.

Thompson appears to have been rehabilitated, and aside from the usual unconfirmed and at times scurrilous rumours, no more has been heard of him. Not so Venables, and three years ago he was back in the news when his life licence was revoked and for the first time he found himself in a real prison. It was revealed that he had sought and downloaded child pornography, but not simply pictures of naked underage boys and girls, rather of actual sexual abuse. It was also revealed that he had been involved in an affray and had been cautioned for possessing cocaine.

In view of his history, the porn incident set off alarm bells. He was given a two-year sentence after a high security trial, and returned to prison. Because his new identity had been compromised, it was confirmed that before he was released again, he would receive another one.

There were those who hoped that would not be for a very long time, because after serving his sentence there was still the little matter of his life licence. Alas, the powers-that-be are determined that Venables belongs not behind bars but amongst us, and he is now set to be released again. No one is more perplexed, dismayed and hurt by this than Ralph Bulger, the victim’s father, and his ex-wife Denise Fergus, who turned her back on her young son for a moment without realising she would never see him alive again. Both have spoken to the media recently, but their concerns are of no consequence to those who are determined Venables should be given what one hopes will be his final chance, prematurely.

While Venables is being released, Ian Brady will not see the inside of a prison again, but for him things are not so simple. Having resigned himself to a lifetime behind bars — be they of a literal prison or a prison in all but name — he decided he wanted out. This means suicide, but because he is criminally insane, he is not permitted to take his own life — by starving himself to death — so has been force fed, although there appears to be some doubt as to the sincerity of his purported hunger strike.

After petitioning the authorities to be transferred to a prison where he might do this, he was granted a tribunal hearing, which was held in public. In spite of this supposedly irrational madman making cogent if Aromaic arguments in favour of terminating his miserable existence, the court found against him, and guess what, this decision has been widely applauded. Again, this begs the question, is Brady insane or are we?

[The above article was published originally July 7, 2013.]

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