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Jon Venables: Psychiatric Report for release

“The initial issue that needs to be considered concerns the possible risks to the public
should Jon be released now. In my opinion, the risks now are so negligible as to not
amount to a serious consideration. The main reasons for that view are as follows.

First, Jon’s behaviour during the entire period at Red Bank has never given rise to
concerns regarding significant violence to other people. There was only one episode
that might give rise to any concern and that involved a rather minor episode of
throwing of batteries. That was several years ago. The nine incidents recorded in 1999
nearly all involved swearing or verbally abusive behaviour and none of the incidents
gave rise to the need for either restraint or segregation.

Second, especially during the last two years, Jon’s style of interaction with other
people (staff and peers) has been harmonious, non-provocative and not attracting
provocation from others. Third, Jon’s increasing mobility outside the unit over the last
two years has given rise to no concerns . . . about his behaviour. Fourth, there is
nothing in Jon’s personality functioning . . . to suggest any risks of violence. Fifth,
although the killing of James Bulger was a particularly horrific act, it had not been
preceded by any indication of sadistic or violent tendencies to either other people or to
animals. Sixth, Jon has made exceptional psychological progress over the last two
years, has gained considerable maturity and responsibility, and is realistic in his
appraisal of the past, the present and the future. All the evidence with respect to past
risk factors, current risk factors, and behaviour during recent years indicates that the
risks to the public are so trivial that, strictly in relation to that perspective, immediate
release would be justified.”

“First, although the crime was an exceptionally horrific one, it was, perhaps
surprisingly, an isolated episode that did not occur in the context of a more prolonged
exhibition of violent or sadistic behaviour. Second, the 18-year-old of today is a very
different individual from the 10-year-old who committed the crime. Third, from the
point of view of Jon Venables’ rehabilitation, the rapid and very substantial progress
over the last two years makes it an urgent matter to have an early, and finite, end to
the tariff with the question of release being considered in relation to parole in the
usual way.”

“The changes in Jon’s behaviour since I interviewed in late 1997 are extremely
striking. At that time . . . he had made great progress but he was very dependent on
staff (so that, for example, he did not want me to interview him without his key
worker being present), he readily withdrew into a posture of social anxiety and
communicative mumbling in group situations, and he found it quite difficult to talk
openly about both the past and future, although he did so with encouragement . . . He
is now much more mature, much more forthright and realistic about both the past and
the future, much more relaxed in his social interactions, much more insightful into
both his own behaviour and the response of others to what had happened, and much
more realistic about the remaining tasks to be dealt with. Both Jon and the staff report
his marked uncertainty and anxiety with respect to his first forays outside Red Bank,
and the huge progress that has been made in gaining confidence in dealing with the
outside world . . . He has dealt very well with the range of different outings that have
been permitted under the present mobility regulations . . .
I conclude that Jon has reached the psychological maturity now to be able to cope
with release . . . Jon has had very limited opportunities to exercise responsibility and
no opportunities to test his ability to cope when not supervised. In my view, it is an
extremely urgent matter to move swiftly to a plan of graded rehabilitation designed to
enable him to cope with release . . . It is difficult to put a precise time frame on the
process but something of the order of 12 months is likely to be required.”

“The next question is whether, when Jon is released, it would be appropriate for him
to return to his biological family. Clearly it would. Whatever the family difficulties
preceding the offence, the family have been quite exceptionally cohesive, supportive
and constructively realistic over the whole period of time when Jon has been at Red
Bank . . .

Both parents have exhibited strain . . . despite all this, they show every evidence of
being strongly, and unequivocally, committed to Jon and utterly realistic in the huge
challenges that remain for all of them to deal with in enabling him to be
rehabilitated.”

“It is crucial that Jon be able to encounter, and deal with, an increasingly wide range
of real life situations requiring responsibility and decision-making and to do so with a
carefully graded reduction of supervision. My strong recommendation is that the
current requirement of a 2:1 arrangement for mobility outside the immediate local
area be withdrawn and replaced by a 1:1 arrangement . . .

It will be necessary . . . to further diminish supervision and then periods of


unsupervised activities in the community before total release . . .

Both Jon and his parents have aspirations for him to attend university but his exam
record so far, together with the assessments of his educational supervisors . . . indicate
that this may prove to be too ambitious. Jon has done exceptionally well, very much
to his credit, and further education is both desirable and fully justified. A college
placement providing training in information technology would probably be most
appropriate in relation to Jon’s skills and interests.”

“Jon has reached an age that is approaching the upper limit for young people normally
accommodated at Red Bank. Nevertheless, my strong recommendation is that he
should remain there up until the point of his release . . .

The relationships that he has formed with staff provide much the best basis for him to
attain independence and autonomy to move into the outside world . . .

Two alternatives need to be considered. The first, that he move to a young offenders’
institution. I can see no advantages in such a move . . . It would undoubtedly make
rehabilitation very much more difficult, it would introduce an inappropriate element
of punishment in adult life for a crime committed nearly half a lifetime ago (in
relation to Jon’s age) and it would introduce the huge risks of placing Jon in a social
environment with major risks for pressures for him to engage in both criminal
activities and the taking of drugs . . .
In my view . . . this would be a disastrous move that would provide a very major
setback to the hugely important gains of the last few years.”

“A more reasonable alternative would be for a move to a residential, custodial, setting


that provided a stage between the high security of Red Bank and the total openness of
placement in the community.”

“The Jon Venables of today is a very different person to the Jon Venables aged 10. It
has been a very important part of his rehabilitation so far that he has come to terms in
a wholly realistic way with the awfulness of his behaviour eight years ago . . .

Similarly, I think that it has been very advantageous for him to accept the benefits of
going under his own name at Red Bank and having to cope with the reactions of other
people to what he did when much younger . . .

At this point, it is crucial for his rehabilitation that he be able to make a clean start.
There are no significant risks to the public in his doing that and there are huge
benefits to him in being given the opportunity to make a success of such rehabilitation
...

Of all the risks in relation to his future rehabilitation, those that surround the
possibility of identification are the greatest.”

“The last point to consider is the degree of likelihood that Jon could make a
successful rehabilitation in order to live independently in the community. The . . .
research evidence that is relevant . . . is extremely limited, if only because of the rarity
of individuals who kill as children. Nevertheless, for the reasons given in the body of
this report, I think that the chances of successful rehabilitation in Jon’s case are very
high. That judgment is, however, strictly contingent on it being possible to undertake
the process of further rehabilitation along the lines indicated above and on his being
protected for the future with respect to identification. If either were not possible, the
risks would inevitably be substantially greater — not for further violence of the kind
similar to the original crime but rather for social maladaptation and serious
psychological difficulties.”