What lies ahead for these blighted teenagers?

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The Independent Online

In theory, a ruling in January by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court division, protecting the adult identities of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables was so far-reaching that anyone who discovers and reveals the identities of the youths even to their own spouse faces prison. No one in the media is allowed discuss what they look like, or whether they had retained their 'Scouse' accents.

Allan Levy QC says that the injunction on the Bulger case is the most sweeping of its kind – on paper.

In reality, however, there is plenty of scope for the secrets to come out. The remit of Dame Elizabeth's order does not run to the media outside Britain and there is, of course, the internet, the quickest and easiest way to disseminate any information.

A recent photograph of Thompson already exists. It was taken by a security camera while he was out of his secure unit as part of his rehabilitation process, and has been passed round by e-mail. Copies can be seen in Liverpool pubs and bars.

There are wild rumours to fuel the sense of outrage at the "early" release. Thompson and Venables, and their families, are said to have the choice of either emigrating to new lives in Canada or Australia, or living in luxury in this country. If they choose the latter, it is said, they will be given detached houses with gardens, cars, cash every week and credit cards. In fact Thompson and Venables will experience a very truncated form of freedom.