James Bulger murderer Jon Venables begs for anonymity over fears he will be killed

<em>Jon Venables (right) killed toddler James Bulger (left) when he was aged 10 (PA)</em>
Jon Venables (right) killed toddler James Bulger (left) when he was aged 10 (PA)

The killer of toddler James Bulger will be in danger of death if he is publicly identified, his lawyer has argued.

Jon Venables faces “a real risk of serious personal violence” if he loses his anonymity, according to Edward Fitzgerald QC.

Venables, who killed toddler James with Robert Thompson when they were children, has had life-long anonymity since 2001.

However, James’ father and uncle want information that they say is “common knowledge” about Venables to be made public.

Lawyers for Ralph and Jimmy Bulger 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.

<em>Venables’ lawyer says the killer is at risk if his identity is revealed (PA)</em>
Venables’ lawyer says the killer is at risk if his identity is revealed (PA)

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.

Arguing against the challenge Mr Fitzgerald said: “There have been successive judicial findings … that there is a real risk of serious personal violence, if not death.

“We submit there is no significant change since 2001.”

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Sir James Eadie QC, representing the Attorney General’s office, added: “There is here a clear and accepted need and justification for the maintenance of this injunction at a basic level.

“This is an application to vary it, not to discharge it and it follows from that, that it is accepted there remains a need to protect the identity of (Venables).”

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.”

<em>No challenge is being brought against the anonymity granted to Robert Thompson (Getty)</em>
No challenge is being brought against the anonymity granted to Robert Thompson (Getty)

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 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.

<em>James’ mother Denise Fergus is not involved in the proceedings (Getty)</em>
James’ mother Denise Fergus is not involved in the proceedings (Getty)

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.

<em>James was killed by Venables and Thompson after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside (Getty)</em>
James was killed by Venables and Thompson after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside (Getty)

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.”

Anyone sharing information about Venables or Thompson would, under the current terms of the order, face prosecution for contempt of court.

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

A ruling on the case is expected on Thursday.