Peter Hoskin

How much does the public need to know about Jon Venables?

How much does the public need to know about Jon Venables?
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There are many arguments, and many perspectives, when it comes to how much we need to know about Jon Venables' return to prison.  Yes, too much information – and too much publicity – could forfeit his anonymity.  But too little, and there's the risk that some serious questions about the probation service could remain unanswered.  The boundaries of transparency need to be set and maintained – if only so similar mistakes and tragedies cannot happen in future.  

To be honest, I'm not sure where those boundaries should be set.  But, then again, it seems that the government isn't either.  Jack Straw is to give a statement to the House at 1530, in which he's expected to give more information about Venables' arrest – so let's wait and see what he says.  But if the Justice Secretary does tell us more, it throws up all sorts of questions about how the government has dealt with this.  Did it have good reasons for witholding this information in the first place?  Has it changed its mind about prejudicing the case?  Has it re-evaluated its position because of public or media outcry?  And why, if so, did it not pre-empt any of this?

Either way, this sorry affair is already a good deal messier than it ought to have been.

UPDATE: In his statement, Jack Straw said that "it is not in the interests of justice" to give out more information about the Venables case.  You may or may not agree with that – but it is, at least, a sign of some consistency from the government.  You do feel, though, that he should have clarified this point earlier.