The facts hardly need recitation. Robert Thompson and Jon Venables murdered 2 year old James Bulger and were convicted in 1993. They were sentenced to detention at HM’s pleasure (the mandatory sentence for murder when committed by under 18s).
The pair were released in 2001 after an assessment by the parole board. They judged that it was safe to do so, considering the risk posed to the public. Shortly before their release, they were granted a worldwide injunction prohibiting the publication of images of them, purporting to be them, descriptions of their physical appearance, voices or accents.
You will no doubt remember that this case has been in and out of the news in the past decade. Venables reportedly confessed his identity to fellow inmates. The Sun claimed to have knowledge of his location and subsequently ran stories leaked by a prison officer (later jailed) about Venables’ family refusing to visit him in prison. Figures bandied about in 2010 cited a £5m cost of creating new identities for the pair.
In 2010, Venables was recalled to prison after being suspected of indecent images offences.
It now appears that the parole board have considered it is appropriate to release Venables. He will remain on life licence. In 2011, the parole board refused his application to be released.
Under the Code of Practice for Victims the victim or their family are permitted to make representations:
The Board currently allows victims to make a written statement for consideration by the panel. This may be the statement put forward at trial, or a current statement. This statement is known as a Victim Personal Statement. Under the new arrangements the victim can still choose to have the written statement placed before the panel for the panel members to read for themselves. The victim may request to be present.
See the code here.
It is important to note that the worldwide injunction is still in place and must not be breached. A recent case in which two individuals posted images purporting to be Venables and Thompson resulted in the Attorney- General bringing contempt proceedings. The pair received 9month suspended sentences but the court were unequivocal in their view of future breaches – those guilty of breaching the injunction will be imprisoned.