Letter: How revenge can damage us all

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The Independent Online
How ironic that a brutal crime may ultimately have a civilising effect on the nation it so deeply shocked. The Bulger case evoked emotions that, though understandable, were sometimes as violent as the actions they sought to condemn. Subsequent inquiry has tempered the debate somewhat, but it has taken the ruling of the European Court to remind us that justice demands compassion as well as retribution, particularly when children are on trial.

The boys may have committed a horrible crime, but at the time they abducted James Bulger they were supposed to be sitting at their school desks in conditions that recognised and took effective steps to remedy their behavioural and educational problems. We all live in a society that has tolerated the social exclusion of whole communities, the failure of schools and the almost medieval conditions of our prison system. To revenge ourselves on two very small boys whose actions arose from a combination of these factors and expect that further degradation will provide a solution is not only unjust, it is damaging to us all.

Now that they are young men, fully able to comprehend the awfulness of what they have done, and hopefully full of remorse, they may find some crumb of comfort in the knowledge that the perseverance of their solicitors may have wrought a profound and welcome change in the treatment of all juvenile offenders.

A fitting tribute to poor little James Bulger would be a national effort to improve the lot of all those still living in poverty and social decay to prevent conditions where violence and crime become the norm.


Evercreech, Somerset