Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Child Crime Critic Wins Local Support; but Victim's Mum Demands Sacking

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Child Crime Critic Wins Local Support; but Victim's Mum Demands Sacking

Article excerpt

Byline: Kerry Wood

CHILDREN'S commissioner Maggie Atkinson has received support in the North East following claims that she should resign for "underplaying" the murder of James Bulger.

The former Gateshead Council officer has been criticised for suggesting that the youngster's 10-year-old murderers should not have been prosecuted as adults.

In her new role as Children's Commissioner for England, she believes children of that age are too young to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

And she wants to see the age of criminal responsibility raised from 10 to 12.

Had that been the law when Jon Venables and Robert Thompson killed two-year-old James Bulger, they would not have been prosecuted as adults.

In a letter to a London newspaper calling for a change in the law, Dr Atkinson said: "Even the most hardened of youngsters who have committed some very difficult crimes are not beyond being frightened."

She went on to say the killing of James was "exceptionally unpleasant" and that the "fact that a little boy ended up dead is not something the nation can easily forget".

Yesterday, the former director of children's services at Gateshead Council was branded insensitive by James' mother, Denise Fergus.

She has called for Dr Atkinson to be sacked, less than two weeks after she took up her new role.

Ms Fergus said the comments of the pounds 138,000-a-year Commissioner were "insulting", adding: "What they did to James was inhuman and to try to say it was 'unpleasant' is outrageous.

"To say that James 'ended up dead' is callous and almost makes it sound like an accident."

David Clelland, Labour MP for Tyne Bridge, said he would need to further consider Dr Atkinson's view on raising the age of criminality, but added: "It is unfortunate that she underplayed the seriousness of the Bulger case. …

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