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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 19:57 GMT


Bulger mother 'will fight' trial ruling

Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson: Both are now aged 17

The mother of murdered toddler James Bulger has vowed to fight a European ruling that his child killers were denied a fair trial.

Joshua Rozenberg reports: "Jamie Bulger's mother has spoken out"
Denise Fergus, from Kirkby, Merseyside, said she was "sickened" by the decision and will battle "forever" against any moves to review the convictions of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

The two boys were both aged 11 at the time of the trial in 1993.

[ image: Denise Fergus:
Denise Fergus: "Sickened" by the ruling
They faced full adult court procedures, sitting on raised seats in the dock of an adult court.

The European Commission for Human Rights ruled on Monday that these procedures were "severely intimidating".

It ruled that the procedures prevented the boys from participating effectively in their trial and violated Article Six of the European Convention on Human Rights.

[ image: James Bulger: Beaten and left on a railway line]
James Bulger: Beaten and left on a railway line
The home secretary's role in sentencing was also condemned since he was not "an independent and impartial tribunal".

Ms Fergus was not impressed. "They say they were unfairly treated. Why didn't they stop the case when it was going on, instead of waiting six years before they say it?" she said.

"I don't think they were unfairly treated in any way. They had top lawyers, social workers, care workers, they had the best of everything"

Joshua Rozenberg: "It's not just the trial but the sentencing as well"
Ms Fergus said Venables and Thompson should never be released.

"Truthfully, I'd like them locked up and the key thrown away. Let's forget about them instead of forgetting about James," she said.

The judgement paves the way for a full human rights hearing later this year.

The Commission filters cases for consideration by the European Court of Human Rights, and its opinion is often seen as a pointer to the eventual outcome, although there is no guarantee that they will come to the same conclusion.

Britain said it will continue to contest the application.

'Another turn of the knife'

Rex Makin, solicitor for James' father Ralph, said: "How the Bulger family are expected to understand this decision is beyond comprehension.

[ image:  ]
"It's another turn of the knife in the wound of the parents who have no opportunity to come to terms with the grief every time there are movements in this long-standing saga."

But John Dickinson, the Sheffield-based solicitor representing Venables, said he was encouraged by the ruling, although there was still a long way to go.

He said: "I think the sentence and the trial proceedings raised substantial issues which couldn't be considered in this country."

Human rights campaign Liberty said the Commission was "quite right".

John Dickinson, solicitor for the boys, and Denise Fergus's lawyer Sean Sexton give both sides of the story
"Everyone should be entitled to a fair trial, however appalling the crime of which they stand accused may be," it said.

The two boys, both from Merseyside, were 10 when they abducted James from the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle and killed him. They are now 17.

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