Letter: Free Jamie's killers

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Sir: With all due sympathy and understanding to the Bulger family, should not the Chief Inspector of Prisons be applauded for his intelligent and sensitive attitude to the child murderers of Jamie Bulger ("Bulger killers `should be freed' ", 29 October)?

No doubt there will be an outcry from various quarters at his suggestion that Thompson and Venables should be released at 18, but, the Bulger family apart, shouldn't the rest of us who are not emotionally involved be able to see that this was a tragedy visited not only on Jamie Bulger but also on his young murderers? These two were children, immature for their age, leading very troubled lives.

Surely when a tragedy such as this and the Mary Bell murders occurs, society must look at itself and ask if it does not share in the responsibility. Isn't society's cry for long-term incarceration just our way of saying it had nothing to do with us? And what sort of adult society are we that we would want to take vengeance on children in order to appear spotless ourselves?

Can we honestly look back and say that the needs of these two troubled children were being met, that they were being supported at difficult and critical times in their lives? No one would deny that they should be sentenced to a term of punishment in the form of loss of freedom. They committed a terrible crime.

But let's not forget that they are victims, too. Do we want to punish them for the rest of their lives? Because surely that is what passing them on to the prison system will do. And, although releasing them may give them opportunities that Jamie Bulger will never have, continuing to imprison them will never bring Jamie back.


Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire