Venables; Straw is right…..
Like many I suspect, maybe even the silent majority, I am appalled by the media circus surrounding the allegations against Jon Venables. Let’s be quite clear; our legal system is based on the presumption of innocence, not guilt. This is a central tenant of a fair legal system in a democracy; painful though it maybe mass publicity of the allegations against Venables would prejudice a trial. One caller to a phone-in on the BBC’s Radio 5 Live expressed this by the saying they would not presume guilt in a case where the defendant was anonymously but if they knew it was Venables they would presume guilt.
In this situation governments exist not to appease victims nor the mass media nor even the majority of public opinion. They exist to be objective; to raise above the fray and to stay true to the values that underpin civilisation even if that means defying the majority and protecting a barbarous individual. While the pain of the victims is understandable it is not the thing that should be appeased by a sitting government. So, while on a personal level we may empathise and even want to act on this that is not the right response of government ministers and the government as a whole who cannot indulge the luxury of personal feeling in a situation like this; in that vein I fully support Jack Straw’s decision to keep quiet about the circumstances of Venables rearrest.
Straw is right because as illustrated above Venables would not be guaranteed an impartial jury were the circumstances released and given that the chances of a successful prosecution would collapse, if guilt can be proven. Venables would then be free and those clamouring for information would have to suffer the indignation, if he were to offend again, that it was paradoxically their demand to know that prevented him being once again imprisoned and left him at large.
The media is already playing a dangerous game with its speculation. In this atmosphere Straw would be reckless in the extreme to release more information. It’s going to be tough but Straw deserves our support…