During an emergency answers session in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm this afternoon, the Justice Secretary Jack Straw made it plain that he would not be expanding further on the case of John Venables.
Whilst some may argue that we should be told and that it is in the public interest we must look further and consider the interests of defendant, prosecution and justice as a whole.
As one of the killers of Jamie Bulger, Jon Venables name will always invoke horror and revulsion. Anyone standing up before a court of law on virtually any charge where there was suspicion that the defendant was Venables, would be subjected to a very one-sided almost unwinnable battle.
Some may argue that this is all that he deserves, that he gave young Jamie no mercy so should expect none himself. But that way leads to trial by mob and lynchings.
Venables, with his accomplice Robert Thompson, was given what was deemed at the time as a fair trial. Since then his sentence and subsequent licence has been constantly reviewed and amended.
Venables has now been recalled to prison on suspicion that he has broken the terms of his licence and may be prosecuted for an undisclosed offence. This procedure must be allowed to be followed through correctly without the danger that press speculation will lead to an unfair trial, a mistrial or at worse no trial.
For me the Justice Secretary did not go far enough in making it clear to the press that they should not endanger any forthcoming trial. The press of course want to sell their news.
But consider that in every court throughout the UK over the next few months the press will be looking for court cases involving men of a certain age up before the beak for certain crimes. Continued press speculation over Venables may also skew these trials. Any information that is given out or leaked will only make this potential position worse as the number of ‘potentials’ is narrowed down.
Jack Straw is absolutely correct. Justice will be served only if Venables is given a proper trial for any new crime, not effectively retried for a crime he previously committed and has already served a sentence for. We May disagree with that previous punishment, but the sentence was imposed by our Law system.