Straw to "close payment loophole for killers"

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Home Secretary Jack Straw was today being tipped to close a loophole which could allow convicted criminals and their relatives to benefit from lucrative publishing deals.

Home Secretary Jack Straw was today being tipped to close a loophole which could allow convicted criminals and their relatives to benefit from lucrative publishing deals.

The move was said to be aimed at preventing the likes of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, convicted of murdering the Merseyside toddler James Bulger, from receiving any payment from a book or newspaper article about their crimes.

According to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Straw's officials are concerned that when the two boys turn 18 next year, and tight restrictions on reporting their progress are lifted, there will be a wave of publishing offers.

Under the present law, criminals are prevented from receiving payments for their story for six years.

Mr Straw is said to be considering extending that ban, both for criminals and their families, to life.

The new rules would not prevent them from talking or writing about their deeds, provided they did not receive payment.

Mr Straw ordered a review of the law last year after the publication of Cries Unheard, a book by Gitta Sereny about the child killer Mary Bell, who was paid £10,000 for her help with it.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1995, an application can be made to the courts to grant a confiscation order within six years of a crime.

But the legislation was designed to cover the recovery of the proceeds of organised crime and would not cover the Bulger murder, which happened seven years ago.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that it did set up a working group to examine the issues raised by the Cries Unheard episode.

She confirmed that the group had now reported, and ministers were considering its recommendations.

But she said no final decisions had been made, describing as "speculation" the suggestion that the review had recommended new legislation.