The Bulger Murder: Parents devastated by loss of anonymity: Naming boys leaves legacy of fear

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILIES of the 11-year-old murderers Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were said yesterday to be living in fear after the removal of the order protecting their anonymity by the James Bulger trial judge.

Mr Justice Morland lifted the order under which the boys were only referred to as Child A and Child B, after they were convicted on Wednesday of battering to death two-year-old James on a railway line at Walton, Liverpool, last February.

Jon Venables' parents, Susan and Neil, who are living at a secret address outside Merseyside, were said to be 'devastated and very upset' over the order to reveal their names, their solicitor, Laurence Lee, said yesterday. 'It has caused them trauma, and whether it will cause them physical problems we will have to wait and see,' he said. 'The judge will never give his reasons so I don't really know what the reasons are, but he obviously weighed up the pros and cons. I am disturbed by it and I don't see why it was necessary.'

Mr Lee went on: 'The Mary Bell case was different. In that case counsel for the defence and prosecution jointly applied to allow her to be identified. The dust will settle, eventually. They may have to make further arrangements for their security, but I have told them to wait for a week or so and see how it goes.'

Thompson's solicitor, Dominic Lloyd, said: 'I share Mr Lee's concern from the point of view of the safety and peace of mind of the family. One of the emotions that came out from them was a great deal of fear and concern. How specific the threat to them might be remains to be seen but they are certainly concerned from the security aspect.'

The trial judge lifted the order after hearing the jury's guilty verdicts, giving no reason why he had done so beyond the fact that there were 'exceptional circumstances'.

The decision followed an application by Stuart Neale, on behalf of Associated Newspapers, which was heard while the jury's deliberations were taking place.

During the application the judge said he had no doubt that lifting the restriction would be extremely distressing for the parents.

'On the other hand this is not merely a question of ghoulish interest in the macabre. Whatever the verdict, this was a ghastly crime, and it is unbelievable that it could be perpetrated by one or two 10- year-old boys,' he said. 'It could be argued that it is in the public interest that the circumstances, the exposure of children today to film, radio, television and newspapers, videos and so on may have played their part.'

The judge added that serious sections of the public could be genuinely interested in these issues. 'The bizarre and terrible circumstances of the killing put this case, so it could be argued, in a class by itself,' he said.

Counsel for both boys opposed the application, but Richard Henriques QC, for the prosecution, said that the defendants and their families would be at liberty to change their names. 'That is something that the Bulger family never reasonably can be expected to do. Why should they?'

He added: 'Publicity is in itself a deterrent to those who are minded to commit grave crimes. Young children hearing about this, and seeing that others are simply known as A and B, may themselves wonder if they commit crime whether they can do so under the shield of such anonymity.'

Leading article; letter, page 17

Andrew Marr, page 19