Bulger police condemn vigilante plan to publish photograph of Thompson

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The Independent Online

Plans by vigilantes to illegally publish a recent photograph of one of James Bulger's killers were yesterday condemned by his solicitor and the detective in charge of the murder investigation.

Campaigners concerned at the possible imminent release of Robert Thompson believe they have a photograph of him taken by security cameras while on a supervised outing in a town centre last summer.

They believe they can circumvent a High Court injunction banning publication of recent photographs of Thompson and his accomplice Jon Venables by posting it on a foreign internet site.

The publication ban was imposed by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss because of concerns that the youths' lives would be at serious risk if they could be identified after their release.

Dominic Lloyd, Thompson's solicitor, described the attempt to circulate a picture of his client as "highly irresponsible" and "extremely dangerous".

"The threat of vigilante action has been with us for a long time in this case and this makes the threat ever more real," said Mr Lloyd. "If it was put on the internet, people could download the image onto posters, which is a jurisdictional nightmare.

"The injunction applies worldwide but the courts only have jurisdiction in this country."

Retired Detective Chief Superintendent Albert Kirby, who led the investigation into James' murder, said it would be totally irresponsible to publish recent pictures of either Thompson or Venables.

Mr Kirby said: "Inordinate lengths have been gone to in the last eight years to rehabilitate them, and to publish any such photograph through any medium would completely destroy the valuable work that has been done."

Anger at the kidnapping, torture and murder of two-year-old James in 1993 remains strong in Merseyside.

More than 400 people marched through the streets of his home town of Kirkby earlier this year to protest against the prospect of the killers' early release.

Thompson and Venables are due to have a parole hearing on Monday next week. It is expected that when freed, the teenagers would be given new identities before moving abroad.

At their trial, the judge said the pair should serve at least eight years in jail before being considered for release. The sentence was increased to 15 years by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard. But last year, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf paved the way for parole by reducing the recommended sentence to seven years and eight months.

James Bulger's family was furious at the reduction of the minimum sentence but said that they did not condone plans to publish the photograph.

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