Jon Venables jailed for two years over child porn

Infamous killer Jon Venables was jailed for two years today after he admitted downloading and distributing child pornography.





Venables stored images of children as young as two on his home computer and made online contact with a paedophile by posing as a 35-year-old mother.



The 27-year-old was recalled to prison after being caught with the images in February. He told police he was "breaking the last taboo".



Venables was given a new identity after he and Robert Thompson were jailed for the 1993 murder of two-year-old James Bulger - a crime they committed at the age of just 10.





Video: Bulger killer jailed for child porn

He appeared via videolink at the Old Bailey today but, in a move described as unprecedented, only the judge, Mr Justice Bean, was allowed to see him.



Venables spoke only to confirm his name and to plead guilty to three charges.



The judge said it would be wrong to increase his sentence because he was one of the two people responsible for the "horrific" murder of James Bulger.



But he said that as Venables was still on licence for the crime, he would not automatically be released on serving half his sentence, as it would be up to the parole board to decide.



The judge said: "Accessing child pornography on a computer is not a victimless crime, since people who do it encourage the exploitation of the children who are filmed or photographed."









Edward Fitzgerald QC, defending Venables, said what he did was partly because of the "wholly abnormal situation" of living under an assumed name amid "constant fear of reprisals".



His "isolation" had led him into a "downward spiral of drink and drugs" and he had become addicted to cocaine and mephedrone.



The killer had "endured very real and prolonged fear of reprisals as a very young child", said Mr Fitzgerald.



"He has undergone vilification, demonisation, and threats to his life of exceptional intensity over the years and they continue today," he added.



Mr Fitzgerald told the court that Venables had for some years tried to live as normal a life as possible, and had a job.



But he had to lie to friends about his true identity and was unable to form a close relationship with a woman, as he would have to disclose his true identity as a condition of his licence.









Images of children having sex were found on Venables's computer when he left it at a police station amid fears that his true identity had been discovered in February.



He contacted a probation officer who arrived at his address and told him to collect his belongings, and he was found trying to delete files from his computer and to remove his hard drive with a tin opener.



Venables was taken to a police station with the machine and it was later examined by officers, said Louis Mably, prosecuting.



He said: "A total of 57 indecent images of children were found."



Eight of the images were at level four, the second most serious level - featuring sexual activity involving children, Mr Mably said.



Two were at level three, three were at level two, and 44 at level one, the Old Bailey was told.



Today, Venables admitted downloading these 57 images between February last year and February this year, as well as two other charges.



A second count involved distributing three indecent photographs of children in February this year, while a third related to distributing 42 images in February 2008 to paedophile Leslie Blanchard, from Chelmsford.



The court heard that in messages to Blanchard, Venables claimed to be a 35-year-old married woman called Dawn who abused her eight-year-old daughter.



Mr Mably said Venables wanted Blanchard to send images of abuse to him but Blanchard wanted to abuse the girl himself.



Venables offered to sell access to the child during a series of messages between the pair and a price was agreed but Venables then broke off contact abruptly, saying Blanchard could not see the girl.



Information from a laptop seized from Blanchard was used in the case against Venables, Mr Mably said.



The two men had used Google Hello to send and receive messages in real time, with Venables pretending to be Dawn.



"Dawn said she was interested in pictures of parents abusing their children," Mr Mably said.



"Dawn said she and her husband abused their daughter.



"Blanchard said he would like to met their daughter and abuse her himself.



"It appeared that Dawn agreed a price for selling her daughter for a few hours."



Mr Mably said Blanchard gave a telephone number but "Dawn" broke off contact abruptly, telling him he would never meet or touch her daughter.



The court heard that Venables had also used "peer-to-peer" software to download video images featuring eight-year-old girls, including some in which they were raped by adult males or forced to perform sex acts.



He said the downloads could take days or even weeks and during that time the images were accessible to other users of the software - meaning he was technically guilty of distribution.



Mr Mably said the computer's history of websites visited and searches made had "indicated the defendant had an extensive history of searching for and downloading indecent images of children using the internet".



The court heard that Venables admitted he had been sexually aroused by the images and masturbated while viewing them.



Venables said he considered it "breaking the last taboo", in a statement made to police in March.



But, interviewed by officers about a video involving an eight-year-old girl, he said he had "no intention" of having sex with a girl of that age.



The court heard about further brushes with the law since his release on licence.



In September 2008 he was arrested on suspicion of affray after he and another man became involved in a drunken street fight.



He was given a formal warning by the Probation Service about breaching the good behaviour expected of him as a condition of his licence.



Later the same year he was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug, which was said to be for personal use.









Laurence Lee, who was Venables's solicitor during the murder trial, said he remained a deeply troubled young man.



He said: "I'm not making excuses for him but when they were released, I said at the time that they would be at liberty but he would never be free.



"What I meant by that is that the pressures on them, having to adjust from eight years in an institution, having to invent a whole story to explain their teenage years to others. You can't tell when a lad of 18 is released from prison how he will be in his twenties.



"The pressures on him must have been enormous."



Mr Lee said he believed it was now almost inevitable that Venables's new identity will leak out.



He added: "The date of the hearing should not have been publicised.



"Somebody in a prison will have seen a lad of 27 who has been cagey about his past walk into a video suite today and walk out with two years.



"It wouldn't take a genius to work it out - and, of course, there will be prisoners who will put two and two together and make five and the wrong people will be targeted.



"When it does leak out, it will cost even more millions to give him a whole new identity and past."



He said the sentence was fair, adding: "It was an Old Bailey case with experienced judges who have considered all the facts and his background."



The Ministry of Justice said a review of Venables's supervision will be carried out.



A spokesman said: "The direct responsibility for these offences must lie with Jon Venables.



"The Government is determined to tackle the serious problem of indecent images of children on the internet.



"The supervision of life sentence prisoners after release by the Parole Board is a priority for the police, probation and other services.



"The protection of the public is paramount and the probation service will monitor offenders' strict licence conditions closely, recalling them to custody immediately if their behaviour indicates that it is no longer safe to allow them to remain in the community.



"The multi agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) sees agencies coming together to assess and manage risk posed by serious offenders.



"Where an offender under statutory supervision is charged with a serious further offence, it is usual for a review of the offender's supervision to be carried out.



"If an offence doesn't normally trigger a review, there is discretion for one to be completed and, given the high-profile nature of this case, it was decided a review would be carried out."









Anthony Hudson QC, representing the national media, said in court earlier that the decision to allow only the judge to see Venables via videolink was a "very serious departure" from the principle of open justice.



He said: "This is the first time ever that such a course has been adopted in relation to an adult criminal defendant."



But the judge said: "I do not see that it is an essential part of criminal proceedings that the public should be able to look at the defendant, either at the time of sentencing or before."

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