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Britain's Lost Boys

James Bulger, 2-year-ol-d Briths boy tortured and killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
AP
It seems almost obscene on a sunny day like this here in London to remember what two young boys called Jon Venables and Robert Thomspon did eight and a half years ago. It was an unimaginably evil act that was reported around the world. And unwittingly, in the course of investigating and prosecuting those two boys, it seems that British Justice has let everyone down... not just the the guilty.

On February 12, 1993, when they were each just ten years old, Venables and Thompson set out to kidnap and murder a child. They failed at their first attempt, so they tried again, later in the day in a shopping mall... kidnapping and torturing a two year
boy called James Bulger ... and then battering him to death by a railroad track. The Police caught both of them. They were sentenced to be held indefinitely, not in jail but at a secure unit built especially for them. And then, incredibly, the justice system published their names and their photographs; NAMES that are now synonymous throughout Britain with loathing and hatred; PHOTOGRAPHS, taken when they were ten years old, that give us a target for our bitterness. So why am I talking about this today? Well, they're eighteen years old now, and the parole board believes it is time for them to be released and take their place in society. They will walk to a measure of freedom, sometime in the next few weeks. They have already been given new identities. They will be given new homes. Just like an FBI witness protection programme.

In this case, there will be heavy penalties applied to anyone who publishes photographs of them, or gives away their whereabouts. But it's all too late, because no society can ever forgive anyone who knowingly hurts a child... and 8 years ago, we were told who they are. How can they now live normal lives, always looking over their shoulders for the vigilantes who have sworn to kill them? How can they enter relationships, marry and have children without admitting the terrible thing that they did? And how about James Bulger's mother? She can never sleep easily knowing that the murderers of her son are living out their lives, maybe just a few miles away. And the rest of us here in Britain will always wonder if that teenage boy just across the road, or, as the years go by, that young man holding his girlfriends hand, might just be Jon Venables or Robert Thompson -- the murderer of James Bulger.