Sunday, 7 March 2010

What price anonymity?

Two years ago I interviewed a mum from the North of England whose husband had been charged with sexual assault. It transpired that he had in fact been having an affair with the alleged victim who had, he said, become bitter when she tried to end the relationship and made the false accusation.

What made the situation even more complicated for the case study was that her friends, and neighbours, had all told her repeatedly that her husband was in fact one of Jamie Bulger's killers. Her husband refused to allow her to go to the hearing, further compounding her suspicions. And although he was acquitted, and he was younger than Jon Venables or Robert Thompson, and bore no physical resemblance to either boy, the seeds of doubt had been planted.

I was reminded of this story when it emerged last week that Venables had been returned to jail.

Will Self was on Question Time on Thursday night and made a convincing argument for why it was right to rehabilitate the boys in the first place. He argued that the offence Venables was now being held for was 'minor'. It was a sensible, intelligent, measured argument. They were little boys when they committed that most awful of crimes and they came from terrible backgrounds and had no awareness of what they had done, Self said. This latest charge against Venables could be drugs or drink related, or it could be that he had tried to return to Liverpool, the scene of that terrible crime.

But on Friday it emerged that Jon Venables was actually arrested in relation to child pornography offences. Then it transpired that he had been accused of a 'sickening' sex attack.

And in my opinion that changes everything. Because adults who exploit, abuse or harm children should not have the right to anonymity. Whatever their background.