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"Nearly eight years on they are still at risk of revenge attacks"
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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 17:28 GMT
Bulger killers' release 'may be secret'
Venables (left) and Thompson
Venables (left) and Thompson: Eligible for release
James Bulger's killers could be released without the public knowing, it emerged in the High Court on Friday.

Lawyers for Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were 10 when they murdered the two-year-old in 1993, have spent the week trying to persuade the High Court to grant life-long anonymity to the pair.

James Bulger's mother Denise Fergus urged Family Division President Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss not to grant the pair anonymity.

Dame Elizabeth is expected to rule on the case before Christmas.

As children one can understand them being given some protection but what right have they got to be given special treatment as adults as well?

Denise Fergus

Mrs Fergus said: "The only shred of hope I have is that Dame Elizabeth turns down the application for Robert Thompson and John Venables to be given anonymity for the rest of their lives. They don't deserve it.

"As children one can understand them being given some protection but what right have they got to be given special treatment as adults as well?"

The application for anonymity is being opposed by three newspaper groups.

They are seeking the lifting of a injunction barring publicity about the pair which has operated ever since they were convicted in 1993.

Uniquely notorious

Mark Shaw, representing the Home Secretary, told Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss that Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were "uniquely notorious".

He said they had remained "uppermost in the public mind" since they beat James to death on a railway line in Liverpool in February 1993.

The pair, who have both turned 18, hope to win parole early next year following a ruling by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, that they had served the minimum tariff necessary under their life sentences.

James Bulger
James Bulger: Abducted from a shopping centre
Mr Shaw said there had been no decision yet on the date of their release, but when it came, it was not normal practice for the prison service or the parole board to announce it.

He said if the press put a specific question to the authorities after the release, an answer would normally be given.

But he added: "There may be reasons in this particular case to be even more circumspect that that."

The pair's lawyers claim their lives would be put at risk if their whereabouts were made public.

'Unique situation'

Injunctions have barred any photograph of the boys appearing in public ever since and their whereabouts are not publicly known.

Mr Shaw said when Venables and Thompson are released they will receive new names, National Insurance numbers, birth certificates, NHS medical cards, educational certificates, passports and driving licences.

Mr Shaw said the pair would also be subject to life licences by the parole board and the conditions would probably include supervision by a probation officer, the addresses where they must reside and work and where they can travel.

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