Saturday 22 September 2018

James Bulger's relatives launch legal challenge over killer's anonymity

Jon Venables, one of the killers of toddler James Bulger. Photo: PA
Jon Venables, one of the killers of toddler James Bulger. Photo: PA

The father and uncle of murdered toddler James Bulger have launched a legal challenge against an order made almost two decades ago which has allowed killer Jon Venables to live under a cloak of anonymity.

Details of an application by Ralph and Jimmy Bulger was aired at the High Court for the first time at a hearing in London on Tuesday.

Sir James Munby, the most senior family judge in England and Wales, was asked to deal with preliminary issues in the case which relates to an order originally granted in 2001.

As the proceedings got under way, Sir James, President of the High Court's Family Division, confirmed that James Bulger's mother Denise was not involved in the application.

The father and uncle are represented by solicitor-advocate Robin Makin, who told the judge he needed material relating to the proceedings dating back 18 or 19 years to prepare his case properly.

Sir James said he did not understand the relevance of that material to the application.

Mr Makin said it was because the injunction was granted on the basis that Venables was rehabilitated and would not re-offend.

The situation has changed as he has since been convicted on two separate occasions, most recently in February.

During the proceedings, Sir James pressed Mr Makin to explain exactly what he is seeking in the application - whether it was a variation of the order or a discharge.

Venables has been living anonymously since his release from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture and murder of two-year-old James Bulger 25 years ago.

James was murdered by 10-year-olds Venables and Robert Thompson after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.

Both Venables and Thompson were later granted lifelong anonymity by a High Court judge.

Following release they have lived under new identities.

But Venables has since been convicted and sent back to jail over indecent images of children.

In February, he was jailed for three years and four months after admitting surfing the dark web for extreme child abuse images and possessing a "sickening" paedophile manual.

He was charged after police found more than 1,000 indecent images on his computer.

It was the second time he had been caught with such images and when he was arrested he told police he was plagued by "stupid urges".

James's mother, Denise Fergus, and father, Ralph Bulger, attended the Old Bailey when Venables was sentenced in February.

Ms Fergus said on Tuesday that she is not involved in the High Court proceedings.

In a statement she said: "I understand the motivation for the application, but my concern is that if Venables were known by his own name, it could lead to vigilante action and innocent people being hurt. Beyond that, I have no further comment to make."

Sir James said he would give Mr Makin until June 4 to formulate the extent to which the injunction was sought to be either discharged or varied.

If he wanted disclosure of material from the Ministry of Justice, he also had to state, by a date to be agreed, what precisely was sought.

Mr Makin had said he needed time as Venables had a legal aid certificate to cover the proceedings but he did "not have the benefit of those resources".

Sir James said the case would return to court for further directions on a future date.

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