Bulger's killers may have sentences cut

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The Independent Online
The family of the murdered toddler Jamie Bulger were upset last night by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, saying he may cut the jail sentences of Jamie's young killers. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent, says Mr Straw also delivered a blow to Myra Hindley's hopes of release.

The two boys who murdered toddler Jamie Bulger, in a case which horrified the country, were last night offered fresh hope of an early release after Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, announced that their sentences would be reviewed by ministers at the halfway stage. Mr Straw said that he would be setting new periods of imprisonment - known as the "tariffs" - for Robert Thompson and John Venables after the House of Lords ruling that his Tory predecessor, Michael Howard, was wrong to raise their sentences to 15 years.

Jimmy Bulger, uncle of the murdered two-year-old, said the Government should consider the feelings of the family. Speaking from his home in Kirkby he said: "The family is all of the same opinion - that those two should never get out for what they did."

In a Commons written answer, Mr Straw said that he would be setting new tariffs for the boys after taking independent advice and accepting any representations made on their behalf. Once they reached the halfway stage of the tariff period, he would then seek further representations with a view to deciding whether the original tariffs were still appropriate.

Thompson and Venables, both of Merseyside, were 10 when they took Jamie from a shopping centre at Bootle, murdered him and left his body on a railway line. In November 1993 at Preston Crown Court they were sentenced to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure with a recommendation from the trial judge that they serve at least eight years.

The 106 young offenders still serving sentences whose tariffs have not yet expired would be offered the chance to have their cases reviewed, with the 74 who have passed the halfway stage but still have two or more years to serve automatically be subject to ministerial review.

In a separate move, Mr Straw reaffirmed his right to decide when adult lifers, such as Myra Hindley - who has served 31 years in jail - should be released once their tariffs have expired in order to "maintain public confidence in the system of criminal justice".