Friday 20 April 2018

Jon Venables pleads guilty to possessing child abuse images

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

Emily Pennink

One of toddler James Bulger's killers has admitted having more than a thousand indecent images of children and a "disgusting and sickening" child abuse manual.

Jon Venables, who was released on licence in 2001 after serving eight years for the murder of two-year-old James, pleaded guilty to four charges at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

James's mother Denise Fergus and father Ralph Bulger were in court for the hearing - the second time Venables has admitted offences linked to child abuse images.

The court heard that Venables told police he had "stupid urges" and confessed to using the dark web to browse for material when he was arrested last year.

He admitted having 392 category A images, 148 category B images and 630 category C images.

He also pleaded guilty to having a paedophile manual on or before November 17 last year.

Venables, who has lifelong anonymity, pleaded guilty via video link from custody.

Prosecutor Louis Mably QC told the court how the defendant's computer was seized in November.

Officers found images of children mainly aged between six and 13, although some were younger.

They also found a paedophile manual entitled the Jazz Guide aimed at teaching abusers how to have sex with children "safely".

Mr Mably said: "The manual is a disgusting and sickening document which falls far below any recognisable standard of morality."

He said Venables had software on his computer to browse the dark web.

As he was being taken to a police station, Venables said: "This is my own fault. I have let people down again.

"I have had stupid urges, inquisitive. I'm not going to be seeing this for a lot of years.

"It's not going to be a slap on the wrist for me."

In police interview, he admitted downloading the material from the dark web.

The court heard that a report had found that Venables was a "high risk of real harm to children" in the future.

It states that he has a "long-term and profound interest in children".

Mr Mably said the indecent images charges carried a maximum sentence of 10 years with three years for the manual.

Mitigating, Edward Fitzgerald QC said Venables had been just 10 years old when James was murdered 25 years ago.

He said the defendant served his full punitive sentence and "expressed profound remorse for his part in the murder and worked hard for rehabilitation".

Since his release, he had lived in fear of reprisals.

His lawyer said: "He lived a relatively normal life where he worked hard for a living."

He never attempted to contact any children for sexual purposes and the images he downloaded were for his own personal use, not to share.

When he was arrested, he expressed "dismay" and remorse and said he needed help to understand why he did it.

Mr Fitzgerald said: "He has asked me to apologise to all those he has let down. He apologises to the family of James Bulger for the renewed distress he has caused by his renewed offending."

He said that the "relapse" had been swiftly detected, adding: "Jon Venables still has the capacity for good and a capacity to change.

"I would ask you do not pass a crushing sentence and deal with him on the basis neither he nor society should give up on his capacity to change."

It is the second time Venables has been caught with child abuse images.

In 2010, he pleaded guilty at the same court to charges of downloading and distributing child pornography and was jailed for two years.

That was not the only time he had breached the terms of his licence.

In September 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of affray after a drunken brawl and was given a formal warning by the probation service.

Later the same year he was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug.

James was kidnapped, tortured and killed by Venables and Robert Thompson, who was also ten, in February 1993.

Press Association

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