Constructions of masculinity and responsibility in the sentencing of children who commit lethal violence

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Abstract

In  1993  the  killing  of  two-year-old  James Bulger  by  two  ten-year-old  boys  in  Liverpool (UK) and the subsequent trials of John Venables and Robert Thompson captured worldwide attention and animated debate surrounding the perpetration of violence by children (Franklin and Petley, 2006; James and Jenks, 1996). Despite their youth, both boys were charged with murder, tried as adults, convicted by jury and sentenced to a minimum of eight years detention for their role in a crime that was described by the judge as ‘an act of unparalleled evil and barbarity’ (cited in R v Home Secretary, ex p Venables and Thompson [1998] AC 407, per Morland J). In attempting to understand what drove the actions of the two boys involved, the case prompted debate surrounding the loss of childhood innocence, the ‘born’ evil of children who commit crime and the role of environmental factors in moral development (James and Jenks, 1996).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHomicide, Gender and Responsibility
Subtitle of host publicationAn International Perspective
EditorsKate Fitz-Gibbon, Sandra Walklate
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter4
Pages78-94
Number of pages16
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781315730981
ISBN (Print)9781138843479
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Crime and Society
PublisherRoutledge
Number25

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