Wednesday, 4 September 2013
So Jon Venables, the child killer of James Bulger has been released from prison. Again. The Telegraph newspaper reports that this will be the fourth new identity he has been given in an effort to keep him safe from reprisals but on every other occasion he has managed to breach the terms of his release in some way. The last time he was taken back into custody, three years ago, it was for child pornography offences, surely evidence enough that this is one unfixable individual.
What many will not understand is the regular attempts to deny the obvious; at thirty-one years old he is now fully formed. His character is set. He may express remorse, he may be able to fool teams of psychologists and criminologists but at his core he is one sick puppy who will probably never assimilate successfully. He will forever have to struggle to conceal his true identity and why should the public be potentially put at risk while he tries?
At the same time people who have otherwise lead useful lives are branded – sometimes on scant evidence - as criminals, serve time and are never again able to regain their former place in society. Genuine contrition for a lapse in judgement may count for nothing in a world now conditioned to condemn. Once you were considered to have served your time and allowed to start over, but now we seem to demand lifelong penance for the slightest slip up.
Woe betide you get labelled a sexist or racist, or end up on the sex offenders register because a scorned date cried rape, or a co-worker claimed harassment. No amount of pleading can remove those stains; society is not ready for your rehabilitation. We’d rather effectively pardon IRA murderers and their commanders, release violent criminals on parole to offend again, turn a blind eye to black-on-white hate crimes or spend decades ‘studying’ the Ian Bradys and Myra Hindleys and Jack the Rippers of the world.
Nobody’s interest is served by this. But wait; that’s exactly it. Society is not remotely interested in the minor issues of basically good people straying from the path. One strike and you’re out, matey boy; no second chances for you. No, the puerile public interest is far better piqued and more newspapers sold by pouring millions into the dysfunctional psyche rehabilitation industry. Better a reoffending psychopath making horror headlines than the plight of a truly contrite, skilled worker reduced to cleaning streets. It’s all about the narrative; it’s X-Factor for prison reformers, “It’s my life, it’s my dream – love me because I’m broken…”
Forget the even hand; atop the Old Bailey, blindfold Lady Justice has failed to notice the scales are weighted and it’s the party with the best story who gets the breaks. Nobody wants to read books about villains left forgotten and quietly kept away from the world. There is far more mileage in the rehab/reoffend/public outrage cycle than in any notion of what’s in society’s best interests. Mind you, it does partially explain the constant pardoning of that classic repeat offender - the Labour Party.