Are Ex-Criminals entitled to the same Civil Liberties?

Emma Kate Marsden looks at the cases of criminals attempting to claim money due to phone hacks and the ethics behind such claims

The last 2 years, during the investigating and reporting of the New International phone hacking scandal, has promoted a national outcry from many quarters of the public.

How dare the media, self-titled ‘crusaders for truth and justice’ and opposed to any immorality, use immoral and dishonest means to get to the ’truth’ at hand. The irony and hypocrisy of this has been far too bitter a pill to swallow for much of the general public. Initial investigations as to the extent of the phone hacking were conducted in 2005-2007. At this time, it was concluded that only celebrities and those in the public eye had been targeted.

However, subsequent investigations revealed that, in fact, the phone hacking had also extended to families of deceased soldiers and victims of crime- including the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. This revelation prompted feelings of revulsion and outrage from the public and some press and, ultimately, led to the Leveson Inquiry being undertaken. During the Leveson Inquiry, lists of people who had been victims of phone hacking became known.

Many well-known celebrities on the list were awarded compensation, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds. In and amongst all these names was another name. This name may not be as well known to some as, say, Hugh Grant, but to others the name is notorious and prompts equal and unparalleled levels of disgust as some of those outlined above. The name is Robert Thompson. For those that do not know, Robert Thompson was one of two 10 year old boys who abducted and brutally killed a 2 year old boy named James Bulger in 1993. Details of the crime and what James had endured were so horrific that they were not released to the general public for almost 20 years.

Robert and his accomplice, Jon Venables, were tried in an adult court and sentenced to 15 years. This was later reduced to 8 years. They served just less than 7 years. Upon sentencing, the boy’s 2 identities were revealed. Upon release, they were given new identities and anonymity for life, at a cost of approximately £2.5milion.

One of these boys, now a 30 year old man, has been sent back to prison, where he is currently serving a 2 year sentence. The other is now attempting to claim up to £50,000 compensation from the News International group, due to his phone being hacked. According to reports, neither man has ever shown full remorse for his crime.

So, up until now, a violent killer who was released early has shown no remorse for his crime has had millions spent on his new identity and protection is in line for receiving a huge cash pay-out. Is this right or just? I do not think so as I do not think this man ever paid his debt to society or to his victim’s family. Surely criminals committing murder and heinous crimes should not be eligible for phone-hacking compensation.

I understand that this may be seen as emotive reasoning. In which case, let’s say that he should be treated the same as everyone else, that he has a right to privacy, regardless of his crime. In that case, shouldn’t any monies awarded instead be donated to a charity? Otherwise surely he is profiting from his crime, as if he had never committed such a terrible crime, his phone would never have been targeted as no one would have been interested in him.

There are horrific reports of the killers laughing as they committed this crime to a terrified 2 year old boy. It is incomprehensible how this must make James’ parents and family feel. Forever haunted. How would you ever get over something like that?

The boys laughed during the court-case and again during their detention. Now it would seem one of them will be laughing in James’ name once again- all the way to the bank. That is, unless the public takes a stand against this and against him, as they did 20 years ago. But will this generation care?

There is currently an online petition set up by James Bulger’s memorial trust to stop Thompson receiving a pay-out. The petition states that if he is awarded any monies it should go to a charity of James’ family’s choice- possibly the James Bulger Memorial Trust, set up in James’ name. But time is running out. The deadline is 4th May to receive 100,000 signatures. So far, almost 30,000 people have signed it.

So, it would seem, I am not alone in my thinking that not all victims of phone hacking should receive compensation. After all, let’s not forget who the realvictims are here.

Details of the petition can be found at http:// epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33458


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  • There is absolutely no evidence that Thompson is clamiing any compensation at all. In fact his solicitor last year said that there were no plans on making any claim. This petition is wholly dishonest because as yet, there is no evidence that ‘notorious criminals’ are claiming en-masse. Thompson has NOT put in a claim for any compensation (let alone the 50k which is being claimed).

    However, even if that were the case, the premise of the petition is, I’m afraid, repugnant as it assumes that crimes against people are – effectively – OK as long as the victim is a hated villain. There is no way this petition will reach the required number of signatures because its very basis runs contrary to any civilised legal system and most people can see this. What it is effectively saying is that the protection of the law is not guaranteed – it is conditional and this, I’m afraid is rancid. Denise Fergus is wrong (and why on earth she thinks her charity should be the beneficiary for crimes against Thompson is beyond me).

  • We are not talking ‘civil liberties’. We are talking about the protection of the law and the right of redress when crimes are committed against you. The hacking of Robert Thompson’s phone is seen by the law as completely separate from his crime (and rightly so). What this petition seems to be saying is that if – say – Thompson is robbed, he has no right of redress because he once committed a heinous crime himself. If he finds himself a victim of fraud, he can’t make a claim on the fraudster for his cash back because he once committed a crime. I’m sorry but this is just revolting. And has nothing to do with ‘civil liberties’ but the bloody rule of law. The hacking of Thompson’s phone is significantly more serious than the hacking of – say – Sienna Miller’s simply because of the threat to his life. Also, no doubt it involved an official handing over confidential information to the News of the World (which would be a crime in itself – even if no money was exchanged). It is also highly worrying that an individual on the witness protection programme had his details passed to a Sunday tabloid.

    Denise Fergus and her (rather uneducated) supporters seem to think the rule of law is something that can be dumped when it doesn’t suit us. The world isn’t like that. This woman needs a reality check and I’m afraid one of the reasons she isn’t getting the signatures is because many find her a deeply unpleasant individual.