We’re All Actors In This I Suppose

15 March 2010

Two fragments from last week’s Guardian coverage of John Venables’ identity relapse:

His deteriorating mental condition has seen him transferred into the hospital wing of the prison where he is being held in an isolation room. He is understood to have told fellow prisoners and staff who he is, making it more likely that his new identity will leak out.

“It’s an extremely difficult position for the authorities to be in,” said Harry Fletcher, assistant secretary general of the probation union, Napo. “If they go ahead with court proceedings, this could undermine his anonymity but the fact he is self-disclosing his identity means giving him another new identity becomes almost inevitable. This situation is fraught with difficulties.”


Ian Cumming, a consultant forensic psychiatrist who has worked with serious offenders in the prison system, said “the national demonisation of an individual was a heavy burden” that could explain why someone would find it difficult to keep their past hidden forever.

“Double lives are a burden for people,” Cumming said. “Just juggling two relationships is stressful and the secrecy takes its toll. People are not necessarily well equipped to do this sort of thing; it’s not their natural state.”


This from Tony Thompson on undercover police Officer A, in The Observer.

The constant strain of living a double life was also beginning to take its toll. “I couldn’t get out of role. Even after 18 months I was having trouble leaving the undercover persona behind. One time I was out swimming. Someone said something derogatory and my angry persona took over. It was an immediate reaction. There was blood everywhere.”

Before they were deployed, every SDS officer was visited at home to ensure they were married. “They introduced that rule after one officer refused to come out of the field. It turned out he just enjoyed being with his contacts so much that he was willing to give up his police salary and everything that went along with it in order to stay with them. Now you have to be married on the basis that, if you have something in the real world to come back to, you are less likely to want to remain in role. That’s the theory.”