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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Bulger killers 'released'
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
Murderers Jon Venables (l) and Robert Thompson (r)
The parole board has decided to release the two schoolboy murderers of James Bulger, according to reports.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, now aged 18, were just 10 years old when they abducted two-year-old James from a Liverpool shopping centre before torturing and killing him.

Venables' parole hearing took place at a secret location on Monday and Tuesday, followed by Thompson's two-day appearance at a different venue.

Blow to family

The decision comes as a bitter blow for the victim's family.

Denise Fergus
James' mother opposes the killer's release
His mother, Denise Fergus, has long opposed their release, saying they need to serve more time in custody.

Earlier she said: "I would say 15-20 years, I could learn to live with that.

"I know one day they have got to be released, but I think after eight years it's too soon for what they have done."

Sentence 'reduced'

Last October the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, effectively ended the boys' tariff - the minimum period they must spend in custody.

He ruled that it would not benefit the boys to spend time in what he dubbed the "corrosive atmosphere" of young offenders' institutions.

Earlier this week, Venables and Thompson went before the parole board in separate hearings.

The board heard representations from their solicitors and also questioned the two killers.

Psychiatric and other reports from the trial were considered, together with up-to-date reports from doctors and criminologists.

James Bulger
James Bulger was lured to his death

It also reviewed the killers' school records and considered any further offending that may have taken place during their detention.

The board concluded, however, that Venables and Thompson were no longer a danger to the public and should be freed.

The pair have been granted an open-ended High Court injunction protecting their anonymity with new identities.

They will be "on licence" for life. Probation officers will be in constant touch to ensure they are adjusting to life outside and remaining mentally stable.

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