Photographs on Twitter allegedly showing an adult Jon Venables are being investigated by the Attorney General, his office revealed today.
The news came just two days after the 20th anniversary of the death of two-year-old James Bulger, a murder that caused widespread revulsion and anger. Venables was 10 when he and classmate Robert Thompson abducted and murdered the toddler, leading to them being jailed for life.
In 2001, when they were released on licence, High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss made an unprecedented order banning publication of any information which could lead to the revelation of their new identities.
But today it was reported that images had appeared on the social network site Twitter, claiming to show an adult Venables posing with friends. While these have now been removed, there are fears that more have been posted on the internet.
"The AGO has been alerted to a possible contempt of court. We are liaising with the MoJ (Ministry of Justice) and others to establish the facts,” a spokesman for the Attorney General's office said. "We can neither confirm nor deny whether the pictures in question are of Jon Venables. It should be noted, there is a worldwide injunction in place which prevents the publication of any images or information purporting to identify anyone as Jon Venables."
The announcement comes at a time when the authorities are increasing clamping down on people who breach media laws on the internet.
"As highlighted by (Director of Public Prosecutions) Kier Starmer's recent guidelines on social media, people are subject to the same laws of contempt as the mainstream media and publishing a photo of Venables, in breach of the court order, is clearly contempt of court,” said Niri Shan, head of media law at law firm Taylor Wessing.
He continued: "Whether the Attorney General decides to prosecute will most likely depend on number of followers the person who tweeted the photos has. This would be a good case for him to send a strong message to those that use Twitter that they breach court orders at their own peril."
The brutality of the case, in which two young schoolboys abducted, tortured and murdered the toddler, leaving his body on a rail line, sparked shock and angry protests in 1993.
Venables, 30, had his parole revoked in 2010 and was jailed for two years after admitting downloading and distributing indecent images of children but is expected to make a fresh application for release in the coming months.