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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"James Bulger's murderers could be released as early as next week"
 real 56k

Child Law Specialist, Allan Levy QC
"The circumstances of the Bulger case are unique"
 real 28k

Peter Wilson, Young Minds Support Group
"Thompson and Venables have not had a soft or easy time"
 real 28k

Campaigner Chris Johnson and Veronica Plowden
of the Children's Rights Alliance discuss the issues raised by the case
 real 28k

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK
Bulger killers' parole hearings begin
Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson
Venables and Thompson could get new identities
The Parole Board has begun hearings to decide whether the killers of Liverpool toddler James Bulger should be released.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson could be freed within days, initially into a hostel, if the board hearings decide they are no longer a threat to the public.

But if they are released, the murdered boy's mother, Denise Fergus, said it was inevitable the pair's identities would be revealed.


They have been well-educated... James Bulger didn't live long enough to go to school

Dee Warner, Mothers Against Murder and Aggression

Venables' appeal began at a secret location on Monday, with Thompson's parole hearing due to start on Wednesday.

The pair are protected by a High Court injunction banning the publication of anything which may lead to their identification after their release.

Mrs Fergus said she was tired of her son's name being "dragged through every court in the land".

Speaking through her spokesman Norman Brennan, she said it did not matter how much the authorities spent trying to protect Venables and Thompson.

"It will be impossible for them to keep their identities a secret from girlfriends they meet in the future, or drinking friends," she said.

Venables' former lawyer, Laurence Lee, said he believed that life for the two teenagers in the outside world would be both a charade and a "nightmare" trying to keep their identities secret.

Release 'risky'

Meanwhile the majority of people who responded to a newspaper poll in Merseyside, do not believe the pair should be released.

Of 42,000 readers who replied to a survey by the Liverpool Echo asking them if they thought the pair should be released now, more than 35,000 voted that they should be kept in custody.

James Bulger
James Bulger was lured to his death

Opponents of the pair's release staged a protest at the Parole Board headquarters in London on Monday.

One demonstrator, Dee Warner from Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said that while the two boys had been well-educated, James Bulger had not lived long enough to go to school.

Other demonstrators said that letting the boys out now would send the wrong message out to other would-be murders.

But the national ex-offenders' charity, Unlock, says the two should be released.

Its chief executive Mark Leech, who met the pair three years ago, believes the time has come for them to be released.

"Nothing that anyone can do will bring James Bulger back, we should allow them now to get on with their lives.

Instead he said they had come across as "normal teenage boys" and not as "evil in any sense."

Retired Liverpool detective Albert Kirby, interviewed for the BBC's Eyes of the Detective programme, said that "nothing could equate to the grotesqueness" of the Bulger killing in the 34 years he served on the force.

Revenge attacks

The pair have been held at secure units since 1993, when the then 10 year olds were convicted of abduction and murder.

They lured the little boy from the Strand shopping centre, in Bootle, to a railway line and left his battered body on the track.

The hearings come amid fears that the pair could be vulnerable to vigilante revenge attacks after a CCTV picture of Robert Thompson is believed to have been circulated via the internet.

The trial judge set a tariff at eight years - increased to 15 years by the Home Secretary Michael Howard and this was later confirmed by Labour's Home Secretary Jack Straw.

But Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf ruled last October that it would not be beneficial for them to be the "corrosive atmosphere" of an adult prison.

The parole board panel of a judge, a psychiatrist and an independent member will see psychiatric and other reports from the trial and up-to-date accounts from doctors and criminologists.

  • Eyes of the Detective will be broadcast on BBC Two on Thursday 21 June at 2100 BST.
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