The Juvenile justice system has changed over the years. Before the first establishment of this system, courts and judges treated juveniles as adults and sometimes received the same punishment as adults. For many years, there were debates on if children before the age of 21 were responsible for their actions seeing as they aren’t fully capable of understanding their actions. This murder of Jamie Bulger created an uproar all over the world on children at such a young age know right from wrong and also violence. Backgrounds, and family upbringing and violence in the media had played a major role in this murder case.
Robert Thompson and Joe Venables were two ten year old boys from England who were convicted of the murder of two year old James Bulger on November 24 1993, which made them the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history. Their names were not released to the public until after the trial by the judge because the nature of the murder and the public’s reaction. On February 24 1993 at New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, video evidence showed the two boys observing other children, which police believe they were finding a target that day.
The day of the murder, Thompson and Venables skipped school to go to the mall which they did frequently. Throughout the day before the murder the two were seen stealing a variety of items which included candy and some batteries and a can of blue paint, and a couple of these items were found at the murder scene. That same afternoon, James Bulger went to the mall with his mother Denise. While the mother was inside a butcher’s shop, she realized that her son had gone missing. She had left him at the door while placing her order at the shop where Thompson and Venables spotted James. The two boys took James and left the mall.
Thompson and Venables took Bulger on a two mile walk across the city of Liverpool, where he was dropped on his head and had suffered minor injuries to his face. The police state that the boys joked about pushing him into the Liverpool canal. People had seen them when the three were walking across Liverpool and had also seen the bump on the little boys head but did nothing to intervene. Many people believed the three to be brothers and went about their own business. Eventually the boys led Bulger to a railway line near an abandoned railway stationed where Thompson and Venables attacked Bulger.
During the trial, this location is where one of the boys had thrown blue paint into Bulger’s eye. They then kicked him and hit him with bricks, stones, and an iron bar, which was part of the railway; they had also placed batteries in his mouth. Bulger had suffered ten skull fractures to the head from the iron bar striking him. Police had also suspected that there was sexual harassment that had taken place since some of his clothing was removed from his body and his foreskin had been manipulated. When asked about it, the boys were unwilling to give details.
Before the boys left him, they had laid Bulger’s body across the railway tracks and held his head down with bricks and stones hoping that a train would hit him and make his death appear to be an accident. Later on that day after the two ten year old boys had left the railroad tracks; Bulger’s body was cut in half by a train. On February 14, his detached body was discovered. The Police swiftly found the video images of Bulger’s abduction from the shopping center by two unidentified boys. Newspapers stated that many people saw Bulger that day but had never intervened to help Bulger as he was taken throughout the city with the two boys.
This crime created anger in Liverpool. The crime that had taken place was so brutal and the boy was very young people in Liverpool was astonished on how someone could bring harm to a young individual especially a child who was defenseless. The breakthrough of the case came when a woman, who had seen the images on television of the two boys, recognized one of the boys as Venables, whom she knew had played “hooky” with Thompson that day. Once she had noticed the boy she quickly called the police and the two boys were arrested for questioning.
The simple fact that the boys were so young came as a shock to the investigators of the case. Forensic tests had made it definite that both boys had the same blue paint on their clothing as the same paint that was found on Bulger’s body. Both boys, Thompson and Venables also had blood on their shoes which matched Bulger’s DNA. The boys were charged with Bulger’s murder on February 20, 1993 and remained in custody until the trial. After the arrest, and throughout the trial, the boys were referred to as Child A and Child B.
At the end of the whole trial, the judge released the two boy’s names since the nature of the crime was severe and also the public’s reaction to the whole case. They were identified and also came along with descriptive detail about the lives of the two boys and also their backgrounds. The release of the boy’s mug shots shocked the public because of the ages of Thompson and Venables. During the trial there were debates on how both children were not in control of their actions which meant that they couldn’t be held responsible for their actions.
Many psychiatrists had tried to find the reason that made the two boys’ create such a horrific crime. One forensic psychiatrist stated that examining Venables, he knew right from wrong therefore he knew what he was doing at the time of the murder. The Judge sentenced them to be held in custody at a secure facility for youth for ten years. After eight years both of them eighteen were paroled on a Life Licence which meant immediate incarceration if they break any terms of their release, or seen as a danger to the public.
They were not allowed to contact each other or the Bulger family, they were prohibited from visiting the region on where Bulger had grew up, they had a curfew and they must report to their probation officers. Breaking any of the rules would make them liable to be returned to prison. It had stated upon their release that neither of the two boys wanted to be released out of the fear for their safety. The parents of the children received threats on a daily basis and there were also reports on the two mothers being attacked on the streets. The two were provided with false identities to rebuild their lives.
The public blamed their parents for their children’s behavior. Thompson and Venables both grew up with similar backgrounds. They both had parents who were separated, and each had learning problems and also problems with behavior. Both of them also had trouble with attendance. They shoplifted, and both were violent, which all lead up to their broken lives. Neighbors had stated that the boys would shoot pigeons heads off with an air gun and they tied up rabbits to railroad tracks, and also had incidents in the classroom where other children were being assaulted.
Some articles had stated Venables family was the definition of a broken home. The mother of Thompson was seen as an alcoholic and the mother of Venables was seen as the neighborhood whore. There was a public debate on the boys and some of the arguments were of the parenting and the family background of the two boys. A man named Mr. Justice Moreland had stated that “In my judgment, the home background, upbringing, family circumstances, parental behavior and relationships were needed in the public domain so that informed and worthwhile debate can take place for the good in the case of grave crimes by young children”(Guardian 2011).
Thompson’s family was dysfunctional. The mother, Ann Thompson had been deserted from her husband five years before the Bulger murder, and the week after he had left the family, their home had burned down. She was seen at bars where she was drunk instead of watching her children. Each of her children was violent in a way. There were police reports on two of the brother threatening each other with knives (Guardian 2011). Venables also came from a dysfunctional home. His parents also being separated, Venables did things that were attention-seeking.
He banged his head against walls and cut himself with scissors at school. Never did his parents take him to receive help for his issues. His mother suffered from psychiatric problems and also suffered from depression (Family counseling 2011). The boys both grew up in dysfunctional homes which suggest where some of their behaviors came from. There were also cases in the Thompson home of the father sexually abusing his mother and physically abusing her. Situations like this can lead to violent behavior.
The judge had explained that in one of the boy’s homes, there were a series of violent videos, and was accessible when the boys skipped school. Bulger’s death was similar to the death in the movie Child’s Play 3 which Venables father had rented a week before the murder. Media and upbringing can cause children to become violent, especially in homes where the parents are divorced and children intentions are attention-seeking. Opinion Juvenile crime should not be interpreted as adult crime. Juveniles should not receive the same punishment as adults especially children at the ages of 10 to 17 years of age.
Many things can contribute to a child’s behavior and a major one could be known to be the child’s upbringing. Looking at both boys’ backgrounds, they come from a family that was dysfunctional. Some of the factors were the children’s parents were both divorced, one mom was an alcoholic and the other parent was abusive. Other factors can be the media. I believe that the punishment wasn’t as harsh as it could be. I believe that the two individuals should have been in psychiatric care along with being in the juvenile institution.
I believe that the boy’s knew what they were doing at the time of the murder but did not understand the severity of the crime. Thompson and Venables imitated what they have seen growing up and merely had a cry for help and simply did not receive it from their parents. There are many factors to explain why the two did what they did, but I believe that some children’s background play a major role on how they act and what they grow up to be. Children absorb more information than adults which makes some circumstances where the mother is abused for that child to mock what they have seen.
“Baby Bulger Killed by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. ” Family Counseling & Coaching. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <http://karisable. com/mbulg. htm>. “Did Bad Parenting Turn Thompson and Venables into Killers? | UK News | The Guardian. ” Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian. co. uk. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <http://www. guardian. co. uk/uk/2000/nov/01/bulger. familyandrelationships>. “Murder of James Bulger. ” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 03 Feb. 2011. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger>.