Jon Venables charged with child porn offences

Jon Venables, one of the two boys convicted of murdering the toddler James Bulger, has been charged with downloading 57 child pornography images, it was revealed yesterday.

Venables, who has been given a new identity, is also charged with distributing seven of the images over the internet.

The alleged offences can be reported for the first time today after a judge lifted restrictions banning their publication. Venables, who was recalled to prison in February, will now appear at court via prison videolink on 23 July, where he will enter pleas to the two charges. In future court proceedings, Venables will be referred to by his old name. The offences, brought under the 1978 Protection of Children Act, each carry a maximum of 10 years in prison. But due to the terms of Venables' life licence, it is possible that, if convicted, he could face a significantly longer jail term.

The 27-year-old was convicted with Robert Thompson of the 1993 murder of two-year-old James, who was led away from a shopping centre in Liverpool by the older boys, who were both then aged 10. His dead body was later found on a railway track. The pair were released on licence in 2001 and were given new identities.

Venables was recalled earlier this year after breaching the terms of his release. Yesterday it was revealed that his alleged breach related to child pornography, as was widely speculated at the time.

He is charged with making 57 indecent photographs of children between 24 February 2009 and 23 February 2010. It is further alleged that between 1 February 2010 and 23 February 2010 he distributed seven of the images.



Video: Bulger killer on child porn charges

It was explained that the "making" in this instance related to downloading from the internet, and that the "distribution" involved making the images available for other users to download using peer-to-peer internet software, although it is unknown if anybody actually did so.

Gavin Millar QC, for the prosecution, told the court: "A man known as Jon Venables has been charged with two offences. The first charge relates to downloading images on to his own computer. The second covers distributing through the internet seven indecent images, photos of children, downloaded by him by exposing them for acquisition for finite periods to other internet users who may have searched for the photos and had the search terms that would have enabled them to access these photos.

"But there is no evidence in the Crown's case to suggest or establish that anybody did acquire them by that route."

Speaking after the details of the charges had been revealed in court, Robert Makin, a solicitor on behalf of James' father Ralph, said: "It is an enormous relief that the family of James Bulger is finally being told for the first time that the man who murdered James Bulger in 1993 has been charged with sexual offences."

Mr Makin added that the paternal family had been frustrated in their attempts to receive support from the police, prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice following Venables' recall to prison.

The solicitor said nobody had given them any details about the case but that the issue had been raised with the new Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.

James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, welcomed the decision. "It is right that the charges he faces should be made public," she said. "I have been kept informed, to an extent, about the legal proceedings in the case over the past few months, through the Ministry of Justice, the Merseyside Probation Service and, more recently, senior officers from Merseyside Police.

"My solicitor has also been in touch with the Ministry of Justice, to make representations on my behalf, and to raise a number of concerns that I have about the way the case is going to be handled.

"We are still awaiting a reply to that formal approach. I simply want to see justice done in this case and I don't want to say anything that could affect the proceedings. I'm prepared to wait and see what happens."