One lesson of the Bulger case: reform youth jails

The hue and cry is up after the Lord Chief Justice's announcement that Robert Thompson and Jon Venables - the murderers of two-year-old James Bulger - are eligible for parole. And no surprise. The Bulger killing was a grotesque slaughter and torture of the worst kind. When two 10-year-olds were convicted of the crime, that served only to compound the nation's revulsion.

The hue and cry is up after the Lord Chief Justice's announcement that Robert Thompson and Jon Venables - the murderers of two-year-old James Bulger - are eligible for parole. And no surprise. The Bulger killing was a grotesque slaughter and torture of the worst kind. When two 10-year-olds were convicted of the crime, that served only to compound the nation's revulsion.

But Lord Woolf's reasons for opening the path to parole merit attention. Lord Woolf clearly believes that serving a sentence in a young offenders institution will hinder rather than help the boys' reform and reintroduction into society. If the parole board agrees with the Lord Chief Justice the boys will be free by early next year.

Doubtless Lord Woolf's decision was based on a true understanding of life in a young offenders institution - one rife with drugs, violence and fear. To emerge from one of these places is to be scarred for life and no public interest would be served if Venables and Thompson joined those ranks. Rather than focus their revulsion on these teenagers, the tabloid press would do better to campaign for a thorough purge of the Victorian hell-holes. The lessons from the Bulger case continue. It's a pity so many refuse to learn them.

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