Honors Blog #4: Verdict (As If)

Karina Kosmala, Arts and Entertainment Editor

This week I finished the book, As If, by Blake Morrison. In the previous confessions of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, they either contradicted their own statements or making the incident seem innocent, which didn’t seem to make a “good impression,” on the jury. Further on in the reading, it turned out that police found additional evidence, and were picking at a different angle of the story. The evidence was batteries that were found near James’ body, but neither Jon nor Robert could specifically explain why and how did they end up next to James. So the police dropped the subject, in order to move onto their second question, why James was “undressed” when they found him? Robert Thompson said that he did not sexual abuse James. However, this question led to the police investigating the influence of the parents and siblings on the boys, where they found out that Robert’s parents abused Robert and his siblings. Whereas Jon’s mother, suffered from depression where resulted in two suicidal attempts. Jon Venables was also ‘the ‘ordinary’ middle child between two special-needs kids who himself shows signs of very disturbed behaviour,” that the day before the murder incident, Jon’s teacher said that his “behaviour was the worst she’d ever known.”

Verdict: The verdict was that both of the boys were guilty of the crime, and would be placed, “in such a place and under such conditions as the secretary of state may direct, and that means that you will be securely detained for very, very many years, until the home secretary is satisfied that you have matured and are fully rehabilitated and are no longer a danger to others,” the sentence became a minimum of eight years. The effects of the verdict was that the home secretary, Michael Howard, tried extending that sentence to a minimum of 15 years through a tariff, but that idea didn’t pass. While the Association of Video Retailers proposed the idea of taking Child’s Play 3 from the shelves, and Twentieth Century-Fox postponed the release of the movie, The Good Son, where Macaulay Culkin plays the role of an “evil child.” A majority of the population believed that these children were corrupt and they can’t be forgiven, but Blake Morrison, shares his hope that children can be “restored socially and psychologically as well as medically.” 

What I found most interesting was that these children who barely reached the age is 18 (in the United States and the United Kingdom) were treated the same way in court (with trials) as an adult, and that’s what lead me to read the article, (by Phillip Holloway), “Should 11-year-olds be charged with adult crimes?”  According to the English and American law (mentioned in the article), that “children under age 14 were not legally capable of forming criminal intent,” and “for any crime to occur, there must be the convergence of what is known as the ‘actus reus’ (the guilty act) and the ‘mens rea’ (the guilty mind, also known as criminal intent).” Yet about 200,000 American children were treated as adults in the crime. Although the estimate was for children in the United States, this doesn’t change the idea that children were treated as adults, and placed in adult prisons (about 10,000 children placed in adult prisons in the U.S.). Therefore, it wasn’t that unusual that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson to be treated the same way.

The other article I chose was by Jeff Ehling, “Boy,12, with Special Needs Arrested for Inappropriate Touching,” . In the article, a 12 year-old boy “spent the night in juvenile detention,” for inappropriately touching a girl. The question stressed in this article was why was “touch a criminal act”? According to the attorney Andrea Kolski, the actions by the boy were inappropriate, but for a boy who has a learning disability and has behavioral issues shouldn’t have been treated that way. The reason why I chose this article was because this was another article were the steps of punishing the child went a little too far.