Rightful release

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The Independent Online

If it is right to will the end of rehabilitating offenders guilty of even the most horrible crimes, as it is, then we have to be prepared to will the means. Only the Parole Board had the information on which to make a decision about Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the 10-year-old killers of two-year-old James Bulger, and it decided that they should be released on licence.

It cannot then be right to argue against their release on the grounds that it will be impossible to maintain their anonymity. That would be to subject the requirements of justice – or what the Americans call "due process" – to the demands of the lynch mob.

It will certainly be difficult to enforce the injunction preventing the publication of any information that might help to identify them, especially abroad. But that does not mean the whole exercise is pointless. Terrible though their crime may have been, the lives of Thompson and Venables are at risk and must be protected. The internet is not, contrary to myth, an adventure playground of complete lawlessness, and any form of publication in this country remains subject to draconian court action. It must be hoped that maturity and restraint will prevail.

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