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Saturday, March 13, 1999 Published at 12:29 GMT


Police anger over Bulger challenge

The killers of Jamie Bulger will take their appeal to the highest European court

The policeman who led the team which tracked down James Bulger's killers has criticised a European legal challenge which could lead to a fresh trial.

Albert Kirby, the man who headed the Bulger murder inquiry, says a fresh trial would be pointless
Albert Kirby, who retired after the boys were jailed in November 1993, said he believed the original hearing had been decent and humane.

It emerged on Friday that the European Human Rights Commission has recommended referring the case to the full Court of Human Rights.

The commission, whose report is officially released on Monday, is understood to support some of the arguments put forward by lawyers for Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

The pair's lawyers, who say their trial before an adult court was not fair, are expected to press for a fresh hearing following the decision.

[ image: Albert Kirby:
Albert Kirby: "There is no need for a fresh trial"
Venables and Thompson were 10 years old when they abducted two-year-old James from the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside on 12 February 1993.

Severely beaten

They took him to a railway line, telling concerned passers-by he was their brother, beat him and poured paint over him before leaving him on a railway line, where his body was run over by a train.

They were given eight years in custody, a sentence which was changed to 15 years by the then Home Secretary Michael Howard.

The BBC's legal affairs correspondent Joshua Rozenberg on the latest developments in the Bulger case
The Strasbourg-based commission is believed to have given the boys, now aged 17, leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences.

Mr Kirby said the boys were treated with nothing but "kindness and courtesy" by his officers and were even thanked by one of the boys' mothers.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We did everything within the law to make sure that the trial was as humane as possible so I don't know how there could be grounds to appeal on that basis."

[ image: Robert Thompson has been in secure accommodation ever since the trial]
Robert Thompson has been in secure accommodation ever since the trial
Mr Kirby said he was alarmed by newspaper headlines which suggested Thompson and Venables might be freed or given a fresh trial as a result of the commission's decision.

'They have never denied it'

He said: "What is the purpose of a fresh trial when they were found guilty by a court of law in regard to what they did and admitted the part they played in it. There were never any denials."

Joshua Rozenberg reports: "This is re-opening painful memories for the families"
A full hearing will take place in the Court of Human Rights - the highest court in Europe - in the next few months.

If the judges rule the boys' human rights have been breached, the whole trial could be ruled unlawful and the boys might be granted their freedom.

But a decision could take two or three years.

[ image: Jon Venables is now 17]
Jon Venables is now 17
The killers' solicitors have always argued that the boys' trial was "degrading and inhumane" because it was held in an adult court.

They also claimed the 15-year sentences imposed on Thompson and Venables were illegal.

Leak was 'deplorable'

The UK Home Secretary Jack Straw says he "deplores" the way the information from the report was allowed to leak out before the Bulger family was informed.

James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus criticised the Strasbourg decision.

She said: "They murdered him in the most horrific and despicable way imaginable and they cannot deny that.

"To say they were degraded or that their trial was inhumane is ridiculous."

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