Your name. Your Crime.

Do criminals deserve a new identity?

By Ashley Boyle

Crimes happen daily in the UK, but for some cases, the crime is serious or obscure and the media cannot resist broadcasting it and consequently all of the revelations that follow. This coverage reveals a lot of information regarding the crime to the public, such as the geographical location, sometimes the victims, possible subjects and then finally the offender. As this information is so easy to obtain, sometimes when cases are closed and culprits are released, new identities are assigned to the criminals involved in order to protect them from anyone who feels that justice was not served. But, whilst everyone’s welfare should be a top priority for the state, could £250,000 of taxpayer’s money be better spent on something else? And should we protect these criminals even after the have reoffended?

The 12th of February 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of James Bulger’s death. The 4 year old was abducted, tortured, and murdered by Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, two ten year old Liverpudlian boys. The age of all three of the subjects involved was the main reason behind everyone’s interest in the story, mainly the two offenders, which resulted in a media frenzy. Whilst many disputed whether or not the boys knew what they did was wrong and whether it was right to condemn them each with a life sentence, they both received just 8 years. After fulfilling their sentences the boys were then released with fresh new identities.

However, it is believed that Venables is now on his 4th identity since his release for a number of reasons. Firstly, he was arrested again after breaking parole conditions which prevented him visiting Merseyside; he was also arrested for possessing cocaine and it was also reported that he revealed his real identity to friends. He was later sent to prison for 2 years in 2010 and again in November 2017 for downloading and distributing child pornography.

Initially I agreed with the decision to give the boys new identities because of the media coverage the case generated as it would’ve essentially been a death sentence for them both without. However, I am less tolerant of the several other identities given to criminals, especially in the case of Jon Venables, after they have reoffended. If the media had not found out about this story, it is likely that these men would have walked away with their own identities and would have to live their lives under the same name.

It is essentially a luxury to start with a new name because you have a chance to start again somewhere else. Abusing this system of protection is not good enough, however, and I feel that there should be more done to criminals if they do give away their identity, especially after reoffending on several occasions.

Is it fair for him to exploit the system and exhaust resources? I would argue it is not. The money for this service was provided by honest working people. The thousands if not millions of pounds could be better spent on prevention and rehabilitation as well as aiding other sectors such as education or the NHS. The solution here is not to give recidivists the comfort blanket of 9 lives but make them face up to the consequences by withdrawing them from a system that cushions the fall with a new identity each time they reoffend.

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