Venables's identity uncovered before news of breach

 

THE NEW identity given to Jon Venables, one of the two killers of two-year-old Jamie Bulger, had been uncovered before the authorities discovered that he had broken the terms of his release from jail, it has emerged.

Refusing to reveal what Venables has allegedly done, justice secretary Jack Straw said ministry of justice officials learned “in the week beginning 22 February” that his identity had been compromised. “Subsequently, information came to light that Venables may have committed a serious breach of his licence conditions,” Mr Straw, who has come under strong pressure to offer more details, told the House of Commons.

Venables and Robert Thompson were convicted of the toddler’s murder in November 1993 and jailed for eight years, which was first increased by the courts to 10 years and then to 15 by the then home secretary, Michael Howard.

Following a European Court of Human Rights ruling in December 1999, the final decision on the length of sentence they should serve was taken from the home secretary and given to the courts, which finally settled on seven years and eight months.

Venables and Thompson were granted new identities, which were, and remain, protected by an injunction. They were released by the Parole Board of England and Wales on a life licence in June 2001, with conditions attached.

They were barred from ever contacting each other again; from living in Merseyside, or contacting any of the Bulger family, and banned from travelling outside the United Kingdom – unless they received special permission.

Despite signalling earlier that he might give more information about Venables’s actions, Mr Straw said the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions both said that “premature disclosure” of information could threaten a prosecution.

Such a disclosure would “not be in the interests of justice”, the justice secretary told MPs and would jeopardise the chance of a trial that would be “fair for the defence, and fair for the prosecution”.

However, Mr Straw, who is to meet Denise Fergus, Jamie Bulger’s mother, later this week, announced that an inquiry will be established into Venables’s supervision by probation officers – who have all been sworn to secrecy about his new identity.

Speaking on ITV yesterday, Ms Fergus, now 42, said the news that Venables was suspected of reoffending had left her “all over the place”, and called for probation officers in charge of him to be sacked.

“I do believe whoever’s been protecting and looking after Venables since he’s been released – I’m calling that they should be sacked,” she said.

Clearly upset, she said she wanted to be in court if Venables was tried for a new offence: “I am prepared to wait a bit longer. Once it’s all done and dusted, will I then get to know the full details of what they have done during the nine years [since their release]?”

Mr Straw has rejected calls to confirm or deny allegations that Venables was found in possession of child pornography, saying this would not end the media frenzy.