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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200319 Find in a Library
Title: Children of Misfortune: Parallels in the Cases of Child Murderers Thompson and Venables, Barratt and Bradley
Journal: Howard Journal of Criminal Justice  Volume:42  Issue:2  Dated:May 2003  Pages:107-122
Author(s): Judith Rowbotham; Kim Stevenson; Samantha Pegg
Editor(s): Frances Crook
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 16
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: Through the examination of media reportage, this article examines the reactions and differing responses from both the public and the legal system in two parallel child murderer cases that occurred in 1993 and 1861.
Abstract: In 1861, two 8-year old boys, Barratt and Bradley, murdered a young boy, Burgess, similar in age after having abducted and torturing him. In this article, the Burgess case is paralleled with a 1993 case involving the murder of James Bulger. The examination of the Burgess case showed powerful parallels with the Bulger case through the arousal of popular emotion, but from a period when there was general public support for the workings of the legal system. This provided a series of challenges to the established preconceptions about the past delivery of justice and to the ways in which the media presents crime and its motivations. In examining the parallels, both cases received considerable press attention. In terms of differences between the cases, there is an assumption that such incidents are now more compassionately reported and dealt with than in the past, with child offenders receiving sympathy as victims themselves. Through the examination of newspaper reportage of both cases, these presumptions are challenged. Where both pairs of boys were demonized in press and public reaction, Barratt and Bradley were reconceptualized and their offense effectively minimized, while Thompson and Venables saw their offense maximized through the criminal justice system. Through contextual examination of the press coverage, it was demonstrated that newspapers react to, not create, public reactions. Further differences between the two cases are highlighted, suggesting disquieting reasons for the modern responses. References
Main Term(s): Public Attitudes/Opinion
Index Term(s): Criminal justice system analysis; Homicide; Media coverage; Murderers; Press releases; Public Opinion of Crime
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