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Justice will only be served if Jon Venables remains anonymous

9 Mar

The news that Jon Venables has been returned to prison* has, unsurprisingly, caused something of a feeding frenzy amongst right-wing tabloids and their readers focused around an alleged “need to know” why he has been recalled. So far, the “need to know” brigade have been unable to explain precisely why anyone unconnected with the case has any need to know anything about it, preferring to deflect such questions with emotive and inflammatory arguments about it being in the public interest, and all about justice for the family of James Bulger (along with lots of silly remarks about NuLiebor** secrecy). However, I can provide a very good reason why not only do we not need to know, but it is actually far better if we don’t. 

Venables is, apparently, accused of child pornography offences. This means there are now a whole new set of victims who have suffered either directly, or indirectly, because of his actions. These children deserve justice every bit as much as James did. 

It’s commonplace to assume that looking at photos of children being abused is, in some unfathomable way, less serious than actually doing it. This is a completely bogus argument. Anyone who looks as such material for enjoyment is complicit in the acts depicted. End of! The children in those images are real, they aren’t ‘posed by models’, they aren’t computer generated. They are real children who suffer for the gratification of others. They deserve to have their suffering recognised, and their abusers prosecuted. As anyone with half an idea about the British legal system knows, these children will not get justice if tabloid newspapers are allowed to print identifying information about Venables because, once identified, there would be little chance of him receiving a fair trial. The Crown Prosecution Service will be forced to drop the case, he will go unpunished, and may even end up back on the streets. 

And no, that’s not because of some left-wing plot to promote criminals’ rights, it’s because our legal system attempts to ensure everyone who appears before a court is tried without favour or prejudice, no matter who they are, and no matter what they may have done in the past. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s a system that’s worked well over many centuries and only the stupendously stupid would consider it should be overturned simply to satisfy the prurient curiosity of armchair vigilantes. 

Furthermore, arrests in such cases often come as part of a wider investigation. It’s entirely possible that, if guilty, Venables is only one link in a very long chain, and that identifying him to the public will compromise the whole investigation. 

Bearing all that in mind: if you genuinely believe you “need to know”, do you also think that should be accommodated at any price? Even at the price of letting guilty people go untried? 

*Technically, it’s not a return because he didn’t serve his original sentence in a prison.

** Not my spelling, but that of the oh-so-witty ranting righties who seem to have overlooked the fact that Venables was last tried under a Tory government when he was named by a judge, leaving the Home Office no choice but to give him a new identity. 


Sustainable Communities Act launched today

14 Oct

“The Sustainable Communities Act gives new powers to communities and their elected councils to drive government policy to tackle local economic, social and environmental issues. It was supported by 80 national organisations, 300 local organisations, over 1000 parish and town councils and thousands of individuals.”

Today sees the launch of the Sustainable Communities Act which was brought in to give local councils and communities to find and implement local resolutions to local problems.  The effects of the act could be quite wide-ranging, but could include initiatives to tackle crime, unemployment and housing; the protection of post-offices, shops, police stations and other other important services; plans to improve or implement local transport systems. You can read more about the act here and here,  you will also find sample letters you can send to your local councillor if you wish to ask your council to get involved.

Local councils request guarantees for Icelandic investments

9 Oct

The Times has published a list of local councils which may lose money invested in the Icelandic banking system. I notice my own local authority is among them – is yours?

What are your thoughts about the situation? Are you concerned about possible rises in council tax and/or loss of services. Would you support a government rescue package? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Mr and Mrs Palin should feel like a pair of Bristols

12 Sep

OK, I’ve been sitting on my hands to avoid posting about this, but I can’t hold off any longer. Bristol Palin – imagine if she had been born this side of the Atlantic. The poor girl would have spent her school days with the nickname ‘tit’.

Sorry, cheap shot, I couldn’t resist. Having said that, you’d think her parents would have checked. I mean, no one likes to give their offspring a name which might raise eyebrows if they go abroad.

Are online networks responsible for the safety of children?

3 Apr

Apparently, more than a quarter of 8 – 11 year olds have a profile on an online networking site according to a survey by Ofcom. One result of the report was a debate on the BBC Have Your Say forum about who should take responsibility for the safety of children online. While most people seemed to agree responsibility lay with parents, a number seemed to think it was somehow up to other people to safeguard children who use the internet. All I can say to that is: what a complete load of old cobblers.

My children are well past the 8-11 age group, but they are still only allowed to use a computer in a well used area of the house. The only exception is my 20 year old, but I think monitoring him would be taking things a bit too far LOL However, anyone who is letting their 8 year old use social networks, or the internet generally and who seriously expects service providers to act in loco parentis is quite frankly deluding themselves. Do these people expect the manufacturers of bleach to pop round to stop their toddlers drinking it?!

If you are one of these parents, for goodness sake get a grip. You are responsible for your children and for what they access online! Yes, maybe better enforcement of age restrictions should be introduced, but that does not mean parents can turn a blind eye and just assume little Johnny is quite safe typing away in his bedroom.

Further Reading on the Great Data Debacle

24 Nov

Contributor Matt, has been promising to post his article about the recent loss of child benefit data by Revenue and Customs, but he is a naughty blogger and hasn’t. So, here pop over and read it here. Then, take a look at his post discussing the wider implications of the data debacle, and the technological side of the proposed id card scheme.

Sheer Incompetence

20 Nov

The personal details of 25 million people have been lost by the Revenue and Customs department. Those numbers include almost every child in the country, along with the bank details and national insurance numbers of their parents. And this government seriously expect us to trust them with our data when they launch their id card scheme!