Oh, wait. Sorry, my mistake. This is the ‘Guardian’, after all:
To the tabloid press, the horrific nature of his most recent offence means that he is – and always will be – a monster. But the deeper evidence suggests we are dealing with a confused young man who desperately needs help.You might think that, Blake. But then, you make a nice living writing books about how misunderstood murderers are, don't you?
But you are in a bit of a minority when you step outside the confines of a cosy ‘Guardian’ office or Islington dinner party…
… the picture of Venables that emerged last week doesn't suggest a Iago or Macbeth…Well, no. I don’t recall either fictional character murdering a toddler when they were kids themselves, Blake.
… but a sad loner, immature and out of his depth, struggling to cope with adult life.Undoubtedly he is all those things. But many of them are of his own making:
Heavy drinking, fighting, cocaine use – these aren't uncommon offences among young men (or even journalists). Nor is looking at images of naked children tantamount to murder. But they are signs of something having gone wrong.Well, cheers for that, Sherlock.
Some observers have expressed surprise that it should have been Venables, not Thompson, who has ended up back in prison. That's because Venables seemed the more vulnerable when they were tried as 10-year-olds – nervous, tearful, an accomplice in murder rather than the main player.Mmm, I remember that at the trial.
But appearances are sometimes deceptive:
But that was an impression based on his manner in court, not on the facts of the case. In reality he was the more volatile and damaged of the two, and at least as likely to have precipitated the attack.Still, having had all the resources thrown at them, no-one can now blame the prison services for what hap..
Oh, silly me. Of course it’s their fault. It could hardly be the fault of the two criminals, could it?
…the support that was in place during his imprisonment and immediately after his release seems to have weakened as time passed. The child and adolescent psychiatrist Arnon Bentovim, who saw Venables as a child and teenager, admits: "There is extensive therapeutic input for teenage offenders in special units. But afterwards the support is more patchy – with the result that the offender sometimes drifts back to old haunts and reoffends."Can we fall back on the ‘never let them out’ tactic then, Blake?
The inquiry into the probation service's handling of Venables might want to consider whether placing him in Cheshire, 20 miles from where he grew up, was the right way to start a new life. It's also questionable whether the close ties he maintained with his family were altogether beneficial.Oh, good grief, make up your mind! It seems to me they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
I’m pretty sure if he’d been forbidden to have any contact with his family, one of the many progressives who infest these pages (if not you yourself) would be squawking about his ‘human rights of free association’...
There was also the pressure of the new identity he had been given and his need to keep his past a secret – unless he got into a relationship with a girl, in which case (so he was told) he must inform her who he really was. For an already unstable personality, the constant concealment – and fear of vigilante revenge – must have been a further source of instability.Naturally, the pressure of that new identity is all the fault of the tabloid press, right Blake?
Had he been allowed to remain Boy B, as he was referred to during the trial of Regina versus T&V, the problem wouldn't have arisen. But when the judge, Michael Morland, succumbed to media applications for his real name to be made public after the verdict, he was stripped of the privacy accorded to every other juvenile offender.So, he’d have come out of prison (or ‘youth custody’) a fully reformed character if only those nasty, brutish tabloids hadn’t outed him, eh, Blake?
I’m not really convinced…
Online last year he assumed a further identity, posing as a 35-year- old mother called Dawn Smith. Cross-gender pseudonyms are a commonplace strategy among internet paedophiles, but with Venables this was part of a deeper identity crisis.Wow! Didn’t know you were a clinical psychologist too, Blake, in addition to your amazing talents in…what is it now, winning two-bit literature awards?
Not a pretty tale, then. Nor the success story some of us hoped for when he completed his eight-year sentence. But not an occasion to renew the vilification, either. Or to rant against the money spent rehabilitating criminals. Or to conclude that Jon Venables (who will be 28 in two weeks' time) is already beyond redemption.Actually, some of us think it’s all those things.
The evidence, it seems, is intent on proving us right.