News In Depth
Bulger MP call over child criminals
A former MP who represented the area where James Bulger was murdered said that Britain remains ill-equipped for dealing with "exceptional" cases involving child criminals.
Peter Kilfoyle, who was Liverpool Walton MP until the last general election, said that despite widespread "soul-searching" sparked by the murder, it had not led to a more appropriate way of dealing with the "small cohort" of youngsters who commit serious crimes.
Mr Kilfoyle, 66, who founded the think-tank ExUrbe, said: "I think people would have been more prepared for an older person being held responsible for James's murder.
"The fact that the perpetrators were also young children, for so many people that blew their minds.
"They couldn't understand how this could happen.
"There was moral outrage at the idea that any child should be killed in that fashion and that was compounded by the fact that the perpetrators were also young boys.
"It led to a lot of soul searching."
Former Labour MP Mr Kilfoyle, 66, believes there was a "knee-jerk" reaction "to punish and for revenge", as illustrated in the scenes at South Sefton Magistrates' Court when an angry mob attacked the prison van carrying Thompson and Venables to their first court hearing.
"That kind of mob violence has no place in a civilised society", Mr Kilfoyle said.
"I still find it hard to understand how people can regard children in the same way as an adult.
"To put them in front of the full panoply of justice can be overawing and a terrifying experience.
"Critics will say they shouldn't have committed the crime that they did, but these were children at a limited stage of their intellectual development.
"What we didn't have, and I'm not sure if we have them today, are the appropriate facilities to deal with these exceptional circumstances. Admittedly, a small cohort of youngsters, who commit terrible crimes or have got horrendous problems.
"I don't think that we have worked out properly how we deal with these children. They are special cases and the assumption that was made - by the use of an adult court - that these are mini adults, they are not, they are children.
"A child is not a mini-adult.
"They have a completely different outlook and limited life experiences."