Saturday 25 January 2020

New identity for Bulger killer jailed over child sex images

Jon Venables, pictured after his arrest in 1993, when he was aged 10. Photo: Getty Images
Jon Venables, pictured after his arrest in 1993, when he was aged 10. Photo: Getty Images

Gordon Rayner and Martin Evans in London

JON VENABLES will be given a new identity at a cost of £250,000 (€298,499) when he is released from a two-year jail term for child pornography offences.

Venables, one of the killers of toddler James Bulger in a case that shocked the world, could be out of prison in a year despite admitting downloading and distributing violent pornographic images of children as young as two -- the same age as James when he was murdered in 1993.

Venables' current alias is now so widely known that the Ministry of Justice accepts that it is "inevitable" he will have to be given a second new identity at public expense.

The cost of providing him with a new birth certificate, national insurance number and other identity documents is put at £250,000, with close supervision from probation officers on his release costing another pounds £1m (€1.19m) per year. James's father, Ralph, said releasing Venables had been "a liberal experiment that was never really going to work". "We have been sitting on a time bomb for some time," he said. "One time bomb has gone off."

Venables will be eligible for release on licence in a year, after being jailed for what a judge described as "very serious" child pornography offences.

James's mother, Denise Fergus, who attended yesterday's hearing at the Old Bailey in London with her husband Stuart, reacted angrily to the sentence, saying it was "simply not enough" and that "once again justice has not been done".

The court was told that Venables (27) had lived in Cheshire for the past nine years, just a short train ride away from Merseyside, where he and his accomplice, Robert Thompson, murdered James, and where Mrs Fergus still lives.

The court also heard that Venables had remained at large despite previously being arrested for fighting and soon after receiving a caution for possessing cocaine. His probation officers were aware that he was addicted to cocaine and Mephedrone, the "party" drug, and was drinking heavily, but decided not to recall him to prison.

It meant he was able to swap dozens of images of child rape with other paedophiles, which he told police he regarded as "breaking the last taboo".

Venables also posed online as the mother of an eight-year-old girl offering to sell her daughter for sex, which persuaded other men to send him child pornography. The Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday that it had asked Sir David Omand, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, to carry out a full review of Venables's supervision following his release on life licence nine years ago.

Venables did not attend the hearing, appearing instead by video link from prison. The judge, Mr Justice Bean, was the only person in court who could see Venables on a screen after he ruled that allowing others to see him would breach an anonymity order imposed in 2001.

Venables spoke only four times during the 90-minute hearing -- answering "yes" when asked to confirm his name, and saying the word "guilty" when asked to plead to each of three charges. He admitted making 57 indecent images of children between February 24, 2009 and February 23, 2010; distributing three indecent photographs of children in February this year; and distributing 42 indecent images of children on February 23, 2008.

The court heard that he had also managed to delete numerous other images and films, which had titles suggesting they involved child pornography.

Louis Mably, prosecuting, read out graphic descriptions of the photographs and videos, many of which were classed as category four images -- the second-worst on a scale of one to five. They included videos up to 12 minutes long of an eight-year-old girl being raped, and images of children as young as two being raped by an adult.

Mr Justice Bean told Venables: "Some of the images are of a very serious kind. Even downloading such images is itself a form of child abuse."

Venables, who faced a maximum sentence of five years, was recalled to prison in February when the images were found on his computer by police. He had given officers the computer for safekeeping after fleeing his home, fearing his identity had become known, but he had aroused suspicions by trying to destroy the computer's hard drive. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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