Letter: The death of James Bulger; imprisonment of young offenders; causes of criminality

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The Independent Online
Sir: The murder of little James Bulger is the most upsetting piece of news that I have ever experienced. This may be because I have a grandson who is the same age and who looks remarkably similar to this little boy. Every time I look at a photograph of him I feel sick. Sick that something so horrific could happen to such a lovely and trusting little being.

British society has been asking for something as horrible and grotesque as this to happen. Not because of the cruelty that exists, this has always been there, but because of indifference: indifference in the way our children are educated and indifference in our attitudes to one another.

I remember being beaten up during the war because I tried to stop a cat tearing a squirrel to pieces when about 20 of my fellow servicemen were being very happily entertained by the spectacle. I bring up this memory to restate the point that in our society there is, and always will be, an element of utter cruelty.

What has happened in Bootle goes to the root of our attitudes towards one another. Nowadays if somebody is being mugged, standard procedure is to keep well out of it. In this case, it has meant that sight of an injured, sobbing, distressed little boy being taken away to his brutal murder led people to look the other way. If they were substituted by a cross-representation of our population the result, almost certainly, would be just the same.

The attitudes of us all have led to this terrible incident, because of the indifference of those able to prevent it. This should be on all our consciences.

Yours faithfully,

PATRICK STEWART

Brighton, East Sussex

17 February

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