Father and uncle of James Bulger want information about killer made public

The father and uncle of James Bulger want information that they say is “common knowledge” about the toddler’s killer, Jon Venables, to be made public.

Ralph and Jimmy Bulger are challenging a lifelong anonymity order made in relation to Venables in 2001.

Lawyers for the brothers told the High Court that something had “gone wrong” with Venables’ rehabilitation and they, as victims, should be able to scrutinise his handling by the authorities.

However, they argued, the pair are prevented from doing this because the terms of the injunction stop them from discussing details which are available online.

Solicitor-advocate Robin Makin, for the Bulgers, told the court on Tuesday: “This a very high-profile matter and indeed it is one where the current situation is unprecedented, in which we now have a child murderer who has, as an adult, committed two sets of serious sexual offences and is undoubtedly a danger to the public.”

Venables has been living anonymously since his release from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture and murder of two-year-old James in February 1993.

The toddler was killed by Venables and Robert Thompson, both then aged 10, after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside.

They were both later granted lifelong anonymity and, following release, have lived under new identities.

James’s mother, Denise Fergus, is not involved in the proceedings and no challenge is being brought against the anonymity granted to Thompson.

The court order was amended in relation to Venables after he was convicted of further offences in 2010 and February last year.

Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice

Mr Makin said it appeared “no lessons have been learned”, adding: “The point is that (Venables) has been trained by the state to be dishonest and hide his identity, and to no doubt develop techniques for dealing with such matters.

“In terms of the alleged ‘robust monitoring’ of Venables … how could there have been robust monitoring when the offending went back over a period of months?”

He later added: “The sad reality of the gruesome murder of James Bulger is that it did have sexual themes and that is quite a feature, given what has happened.”

Mr Makin told the court the Bulgers do not want the order to be discharged altogether, but are asking for it to be varied so that some information can be revealed without the threat of prosecution.

The court heard that the information includes details of Venables’ identities and former addresses up to 2017 and the prisons where he has been detained.

Mr Makin said: “In order for the applicants to exercise their rights as victims and to deal with the process going forward, there should be disclosure of information akin to what was disclosed when the offending occurred in 2010.”

He later added: “There is not one scintilla of evidence to suggest that anything that was released in 2010 damaged him in any way.”

The lawyer said the “reality of the situation” is that information can easily be found about Venables by searching online and that he has not been “damaged” by that material so far.

However, anyone sharing such information would, under the current terms of the order, face prosecution for contempt of court.

Mr Makin said such action had been brought against a number of people and submitted that this was because the authorities “must be seen to be doing something” from time to time.

The case is being heard in London by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane.

Neither Ralph nor Jimmy was present in court.

In a ruling on preliminary issues in May last year, then President of the Family Division Sir James Munby said the murder of James Bulger had “shocked and horrified the country”.

Only a handful of lifelong anonymity orders have been made to date, including those granted to Venables and Thompson, and child killer Mary Bell.