WHATEVER “extremely serious” offence Jon Venables has allegedly committed, newspaper reports range from child porn offences to assaulting a workmate, the decision to revoke his licence and return him to prison has created a media storm certain to trigger searching questions, particularly for the probation service, supervising him while he enjoyed freedom and a new identity, to which many people, including me, considered he had no right.

It is 17 years since Venables and Robert Thomson, both then ten years of age, kidnapped two-year-old toddler Jamie Bulger from a Merseyside shopping mall, tortured and beat him to death before leaving his battered body on a railway line for a train to run over. Call me a cynic if you must but when, during their trial, the horrific details of what they had done to little Jamie were revealed, I formed the opinion that here were two evil, twisted, cruel and vicious mini-monsters.

Venables and Thomson were ordered to serve a minimum of eight years. This was increased to 17 years on appeal but reduced back to eight on the intervention of the European Court, which ruled that they had suffered “inhuman and degrading treatment in an adult court”. What a pity Jamie Bulger wasn’t able to describe the “inhuman and degrading treatment” he had suffered at the hands of his killers. From the date of their incarceration, Venables and Thomson underwent an intense course of rehabilitation, under the supervision, one imagines, of experts entrusted with the task of returning those found guilty of extreme violence to something resembling normality. Jamie Bulger’s killers must have convinced everyone connected with their treatment that it had succeeded by the time they were released on licence with new identities in 2001. Jamie’s mother has long campaigned against their freedom, warning they would go on to commit other offences. Sadly, her words have proved prophetic.

Only parents, grandparents, immediate and extended families of children who die in similar, harrowing circumstances, can truly understand the pain and grief experienced by those closest to Jamie Bulger. The rest of us will have shared their anguish and raged against laws which seem weighted in favour of those who commit such ghastly crimes.

The “experts” who considered Venables and Thomson worth saving, protecting and deserving of the chance to change, must now, surely, be questioning their own beliefs. There is something disturbing about ten-year-olds who kidnap a defenceless child, then carry out such an attack on him. Can rehabilitation redress that degree of mental sickness? I, for one, don’t think so.