James Bulger's killer Jon Venables launches bid for freedom before law changes

7 April 2022, 09:34 | Updated: 7 April 2022, 09:42

James Bulger's killer Jon Venables launches bid for freedom before law changes. Picture: Alamy

By Liam Gould

Killer Jon Venables is launching a new bid to be released on parole before the introduction of new laws that may block a future appeal.

Venables was found guilty of torturing and killing two-year old James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside, in 1993 when he was ten, and has reportedly been pushing for parole since February last year.

It is now reported he could have a full hearing as early as September before laws are changed that will allow minister's to block the release of the most dangerous criminals for public safety reasons.

Ralph Bulger - James Bulger's father - has asked to present at the hearing to push for the move to be blocked.

The 55-year old also called on Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to allow him to speak at the hearing if he is "serious" about his new crime reforms.

But, the bill may only come into law as late as next year meaning criminals have the chance to launch new bids for freedom before the changes come into place.

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Officials contacted the family of James Bulger to issue new victim impact statements in preparation for a potential hearing.

Ralph Bulger told the Sun: "If the Justice Secretary is serious on reform then he must allow me to be present at Venables's parole hearing, just as I was at his Old Bailey hearing.

"I want Venables to hear why I believe he should have his parole denied. For too long, victims and families have been ignored while authorities put the so-called rights of dangerous criminals first."

Solicitor Robin Makin and Ralph Bulger outside Liverpool Crown Court as they made a victim personal statement to Jon Venables' parole board. Picture: Alamy

Venables, along with Robert Thompson, led James Bulger away from his parents at New Strand Shopping Centre, Bootle in 1993 when they were ten. They then tortured and killed the two-year old, leaving his body to be found two days later on the side of a railway.

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Both were released in 2001 under new identities but Venables was arrested again in 2017 for possessing child abuse images.

He was denied parole last year. During the hearing, it was said Venables had a continued attraction to sexual violence.

The change in rules will grant Mr Raab with the final say on the release of about 660 offenders a year. It will also give victims the right to attend Parole Board hearings, ask questions and receive more information from officials over release plans.

Mr Raab said: “As Justice Secretary I have the responsibility to keep the public safe but to do this I need to be able to exercise authority when it comes to releasing dangerous criminals.

“I’m not satisfied our current approach is as robust as it needs to be, which is why I am making changes to restore public confidence in the system.”

The current test for release is if the Parole Board is satisfied that imprisoning an offender is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.

But, the changes will see a more “precautionary approach” urged and to only release prisoners if they are safe to walk free.

Within the current laws over parole, ministers can only lodge appeals if the rules have not been followed properly.

It is believed the change is intended to restore public confidence in the system after two national scandals allowed serious criminals to be released.

John Worboys, who is believed to have raped or sexually assaulted over 100 women, was cleared for release in 2018. The public outcry saw the decision overruled.

Once again in 2021, Colin Pitchfork - who raped and killed two 15-year old girls in the 1980s - was released for parole in 2021. Just two months after he walked free, he was recalled to prison after being caught approaching young women.

The victim impact statements for Venables' hearing are set to be completed in a few weeks.