Witness Protection: We don’t think it means what UK thinks it means

In Britain, the definition of “witness protection” is a little different from the way it’s done in the USA, even in fictional TV series like The Sopranos or Lillyhammer. We begin with a former private eye who’s done time for phone hacking, looking at another stay in the nick, says the Beeb:

News of the World hacker Glenn Mulcaire may now face prosecution for obtaining the identities of people under witness protection, Panorama has learned.

OK, so what witnesses did he unprotect, then? What brave snitches that ratted out stone-cold killers? None, actually. In Britain, “Witness Protection” is for the killers, so that the new people they interact with aren’t prejudiced against them.

He had discovered the new identities of four notorious offenders, including one of toddler James Bulger’s killers, by hacking phones, the Met Police said. The newspaper printed several stories about Robert Thompson’s new life.

via BBC News – NoW hacker Glenn Mulcaire ‘breached witness protection’. The press’s focus has been on the corruption of the police, but by any measure the corruption of the press was far worse (the final tally of arrests for phone hacking was 26 coppers and 101 ink-stained wretches, although “final” seems like the wrong word, with Mulcaire liable to rearrest and a second ride through the Old Bailey fun house, and unnamed other journos likely to join him. But let’s dwell a time on the “witnesses” whose privacy has been worth, so far, a £60 million investigation. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables are two soulless monsters who at age ten committed their first killing, two-year-old James Patrick Bulger. But it wasn’t just a murder. They lured the toddler away from his mother, kidnapped him,  and led him away. The trusting boy, a month short of his third birthday, seemed to like one of the killers, Venables; he took his hand, and from time to time, Venables says, he picked him up and carried him. The murderers were caught by a camera as they led the boy away; that picture would ultimately lead to their arrest and conviction. No camera caught what happened next, but the soulless pair had no problem admitting it, when they were finally asked. They began to beat and injure the boy as they led him across town to a remote railyard, where they tortured him. Motive? None evident. Just cruelty let to run free. Here’s what happened to the poor kid: this is what the “witnesses” they’re so anxious to “protect” did:

  1. They had already dropped him on his head and beaten him in the face.
  2. They poured or threw oil-based laquer in his eye.
  3. They kicked and stomped on him.
  4. They threw bricks and stones at him.
  5. They pulled off his shoes, socks, pants and underpants.
  6. They sexually molested him. (The details of this are mercifully unclear).
  7. They shoved batteries up his anus, causing internal injuries.
  8. They then stuffed the batteries in his mouth. All the time they were laughing and egging each other on — by their own statements.
  9. Tiring of torturing the toddler, they then raised up a railway fishplate (the 20+ pound iron plate that sits under the rail on each tie, and holds the spikes in position) and smashed his small skull with it. Repeatedly. He ultimately had 10 skull fractures, and dozens of other injuries. If their previous abuses did not kill him, this did.
  10. They then lay his dead body across the tracks and buried his head under trash and scrap (including the fishplate). They later explained, quite cold-bloodedly and remorselessly, that they did this to make it look like the child was a victim of a train accident.
  11. They then left, completely carefree.
  12. Two days later, Bulger’s body was found. It had been crushed and severed by passing trains. The pathologists determined that all the train injuries were postmortem, but he couldn;t determine which of the many other injuries was fatal to poor Bulger.

The only regret one of these monsters, Venables, ever expressed was regret that he got caught, and Thompson, who took the lead in these appalling crimes, has never expressed even that much. But they walk free today (despite, in the case of Venables, subsequent felonies).

A woman who saw the grainy security footage was able to ID one of the killers, and knew that he and the other had played hooky that day. After the boys were arrested , a mountain of physical evidence condemned them. One left an identifiable shoeprint on Bulger’s face; their shoes still were bloody, with Bulger’s blood. They’d gotten the paint the put in his eye on themselves and their clothes. And they denied nothing.

At the trial, it came out that Bulger was the second toddler they’d tried to kidnap and murder that day, but in the first case they were stopped by an alert mother.

By any measure, these two human-shaped creatures are a complete waste of protoplasm, and in a better world they would have been recycled already. Even the British judge recognized that he was dealing with two lost souls of “unparalleled evil and barbarity… cunning and very wicked.” 

Due to quirks in Britain’s laws, and the extreme laxity of British justice, they could not be imprisoned for long. The Home Secretary tried to have them imprisoned for fifteen years (!) but British liberals and lawyers protested with anguish the “cruelty” of the sentence. Prime Minister John Major countered that it would be good to “condemn a little more, and understand a little less.” But he didn’t do anything concrete about it (and would soon be swept away by an election of his own).

While imprisoned, the murderers received a cash allowance, outings to recreational areas, education to A-Levels, and new identities, as part of the ill-named “witness protection” program, which in Britain is primarily used to give cover to murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other monsters. Now, many of the 8,500 participants in US WitSec are not nice people, but they’re not in the program because they were murderers; they’re in the program because they have given up worse murderers or other criminals. That is a distinction that our British cousins appear to have lost sight of, in pursuit of some daft idea that crime should be as free as possible of consequences. Some unknown number of the 3,000 people in the British equivalent program are actually criminals who made no contribution to criminal justice, except as the men of the hour.

Returning to our heroes’ conduct whilst in nick, Venables regularly had sex with a woman who worked in his prison; when it was discovered, she was transferred and the incident covered up. Nothing was allowed to interfere with HM Prison Service’s prime goal, the comfort and convenience of these monsters. A psychiatrist’s report identifying Thompson as a psychopath (for one thing, he has never shown remorse, or any affect at all, relative to the Bulger murder) was dismissed by the authorities, who were determined to demonstrate rehab success with these two unlikely candidates.

Even the weak-as-water 15-year sentence didn’t stand. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the murderers had been ill done by and must be released sooner. The same Court dismissed the entreaties of Bulger’s parents as unworthy of the notice of such distinguished jurists as themselves; by extension, ruling that Bulger, unlike Thompson and Venables, had no “human right” to life. Lawyers!

After they were released from prison in 2001, the new false identities of the two murderers have been one of Britain’s most expensively and thoroughly guarded state secrets. That hasn’t prevented them from returning to crime; character always runs true.

Venables, in particular, remains a threat to children and the public. He was arrested in 2008 for affray (assault), and later for cocaine possession. He even was returned to prison briefly in 2010 after being caught possessing and distributing explicit child porn — including images of two-year-olds being raped by adults. (You may recall, if you had the stomach to read the list above, that his original offense was the molestation and rape of a two-year old. Character runs true).

In the USA, even a first offense of child porn of that nature would get a long sentence, but in Britain, it’s only good for two years. Venables was released in 2013, after being given a second new identity, when the first one wound up posted on a website that tracks pedophiles. Under his “clean” new identity, he is not required to register as a pedophile, although he remains on supervised release; Britain places a higher value on the privacy of Venables than the safety of any children this lifelong pervert may encounter.

But the villain, say the British authorities? It’s not Venables, or Thompson, but Mulcaire: the guy who would identify these ticking time bombs for the defenseless public. Several public-spirited Britons who have tried to “out” the new identities of these perverts and murderers have been dragged into the criminal courts handled considerably more roughly than the monsters themselves.

When your system of laws elevates the comfort of Venables and Thompson above the life of poor, doomed Bulger, it has long ceased to be a system of justice. 

13 thoughts on “Witness Protection: We don’t think it means what UK thinks it means

    1. Bill K

      I’d want to send the Mars rover first to determine whether there was any intelligent life left, or whether the parasites had stripped the islands as lifeless as the Pre-Cambrian age.

      We will sell no wine before its time.

  1. Expat

    Hay there, don’t knock the Brits justice system. They could teach us a thing or two.
    One of the reasons they have a lower ( well used to anyway before the imported various demographic groups) murder rate is they only count homicide convictions. Dead body in the street with a knife sticking out of it’s back doesn’t count unless there’s a homicide conviction.
    I can’t figure out why the powers to be in say Chicago haven’t clued to this. With a clearance rate of 25%. one, or maybe 2 strokes of a pen the mayor could cut the homicide rate in Chicago by 75%.
    Problem solved, run for the White House in 2016.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yeah, until you’ve pinned it on Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick, it’s a death by misadventure or some such, innit? Anyway, I was just talking with a Fed friend and he says, “You want to kill somebody? Come to Philadelphia. Their closure rate is almost zero.”

    1. Hognose Post author

      In the future, everyone gets to be a unique and special snowflake in one special way, and when everyone is special, Mr Bergeron….

  2. WyomingBound

    This is a story that disturbs even the hardest of souls. Every time I hear the word “Venebles”, I’m reminded why I have only been back to England twice since I left in 1983.
    You could go on and on about the depraved crimes occurring almost daily over there that rarely end in convictions, and even when caught the perpetrators are coddled into permanent dependents of the state.
    What is equally astounding to me, however, is how relatives back there seem so untroubled by this crime and others like it, such as the broad daylight hacking to death of the soldier in Woolwich.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I don’t blame all of Britain for this guy being a soulless cretin. We have millions of ’em here, after all. I can almost understand the idea of giving released prisoners a new identity so that they have a new start, assuming they’ve “paid their debt to society.” (Have a hard time understanding it for such depraved murderers as these two, of course).

      But the sheer Orwellian deceptiveness of calling it “witness protection,” makes me burn with righteous rage.

  3. Aesop

    I’m fine with the idea too.

    I just figure the guy’s “debt to society” runs to about 150 years in a cell.

    After that, unlock the door, and let him walk.

  4. Nimrod Hunter

    Just unspeakable. It is impossible to express the revulsion and horror at even reading about a toddler being treated that way. And the fact that the murderers were ten years old at the time is so disorienting it renders one speechless. If you’re feeling it, you can’t even speak. If you can talk or write about it, you’re no longer feeling it.

    I wish there was something I could do to comfort the survivors. God help us all.

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