Letter: Tell the horrid facts without titillation

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The Independent Online
Sir: The publication by national newspapers of the details of criminal trials involving minors, exemplified by Jonathan Foster's article 'Boy's horrific walk to death described to jury' (Front page, 2 November), plays an important role in assuring the public that the criminal justice system is functioning effectively, and with fairness. In addition, as in this particular piece, such reporting may play a further role in helping us to re-examine and perhaps alter our own behaviour.

I would venture that many readers of the Independent recoiled with horror from Jonathan Foster's account of the onlookers and passers- by who saw the distressed boy before his death, and failed to act. Perhaps, as a result of the article, those readers will have had their resolve steeled to intervene on the next occasion that they are confronted with an unfamiliar but patently troubled child.

However, I am concerned that the article displayed a tendency, not merely to report the facts surrounding the death of James Bulger, but to accentuate them. Mr Foster describes the boy's blood spraying the killers, his skull being smashed with bricks, and then his body being severed by a train.

Yes, I accept that these appalling events occurred, however, I would argue that the reporting of the facts should be done in such a way that it eschews any suggestion of titillation while remaining a true account. Unfortunately, the extent to which Mr Foster's article repeatedly highlights the child's violent degradation, and the reporting of irrelevant factual and courtroom minutiae, carries with it just such a suggestion: and by doing so demeans the paper and its very readers.

Yours faithfully,


London, NW7

2 November