James Bulger killer returned to prison

Jon Venables breached conditions of release says Ministry of Justice

Tom Peck
Wednesday 03 March 2010 01:00

One of the killers of the toddler James Bulger has been returned to prison after breaching the conditions of his release.

Jon Venables, 27, who with Robert Thompson abducted and murdered James in February 1993, was released from custody in 2001, but he has been recalled following the breach, a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said.

She added: "We can confirm that Jon Venables has been recalled to custody following a breach of licence conditions.

"Offenders on licence are subject to strict conditions; if they breach those conditions they are subject to immediate recall. There is a worldwide injunction in place that prohibits any reporting including reporting on the internet, that could identify him or his location."

Details of the nature of the breach were not released. Barrister and criminal law expert Michael Wolkind QC said he thought there was a "significant chance" the breach had been serious. He said: "Licence is a means of controlling people once they are released. Now this has been publicised, I think there must be a possibility of his new identity being exposed in prison and the inference must be it was a serious breach. To go to all the trouble of building him a new identity and a new life, there must be a significant chance it was serious."

Offenders released on licence are subject to a standard set of conditions as well as particular conditions pertaining to the offender. The licence conditions imposed on Venables and Thompson have never been made public. Typical conditions include undergoing regular treatment such as counselling, and restrictions on contacting particular individuals or living in a certain area. Any criminal act would also constitute a breach.

Laurence Lee, who was Venables' solicitor at his trial, said he was "shocked". He said: "If I were a betting man and someone said to me, 'One of the two killers of Jamie Bulger had been arrested and returned to prison', I would have put a lot of money on it not being Jon because he was, by unanimous agreement, the lesser evil of the two."

Albert Kirby, who led the Bulger investigation, said he had spoken to James's mother, Denise Fergus, and the news had brought "a whole load of anxiety" back to her. He said: "There's always been a lot of anxiety as to where both boys are and to hear something like that this evening it brings back to her a lot of the concerns, quite understandably, that she and any other parents in these sorts of circumstances would have."

Thompson and Venables were given new identities when they were released after serving eight years for murder. Ms Fergus always campaigned against their release.

On 13 February 1993, they abducted James from a shopping centre in the Bootle area of Merseyside and killed him on a freight railway line.

The toddler's battered body was found by children playing on the line near to Walton Lane police station, in Liverpool. In November of that year, they were convicted following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court and ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure, the normal substitute sentence for life imprisonment when the offender is a juvenile.