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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK


Bulger mother: 'Reject killers' appeal'

Jon Venables (left) and Robert Thompson are now 17

The parents of murdered toddler James Bulger have appeared at a court hearing in which their son's killers are arguing their human rights were violated.

Jamie Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, said she was there to represent her son.

The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg: "The Judges heard arguments from both the Bulger lawyers"
The two murderers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against the treatment they received during their court case and subsequent sentencing.

After appearing before the private hearing, Mrs Fergus said it was important that her son be represented at the appeal.

Her lawyer was allowed to make a 10-minute statement on her behalf during the hearing.

Afterwards, Mrs Fergus said: "I am pleased to have heard the arguments before the court this morning.

"I am pleased that the government is continuing to fight the appeal and hope that the court will reject the appeal in due course."

Ralph Bulger, her ex-husband and Jamie's father, was also in court.

In a statement released through his solicitor he said: "I think it's a landmark really that victims can have a say before the Court of Human Rights and obviously the court is going to take those issues into account.

"At long last victims' interests will now be considered at the highest possible level."

Shocked nation

Thompson and Venables were convicted of murdering the two-year-old in February 1993.

[ image: James Bulger was beaten up and left for dead on a railway line]
James Bulger was beaten up and left for dead on a railway line
They abducted him from a busy shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside, while his mother was distracted, walked him more than a mile to a railway line and killed him.

The murder shocked the nation and feelings ran high when the pair were arrested and eventually convicted.

Lawyers for Thompson and Venables, who were both 10 when they murdered the two-year-old, are appealing against their treatment.

They say it was unfair for them to be tried in an adult court and that their sentence should not have been fixed by the Home Secretary.

The European Court of Human Rights will not make its ruling on the case until December.

Intense public attention

Thompson and Venables have the support of the Human Rights Commission, which used to filter applications until a new court was set up last year.

The commission said putting the two defendants in a raised dock and them being the focus of intense public attention during their three-week trial at Preston Crown Court, must have seriously impinged on their ability to take part in the proceedings.

It also ruled that the setting of a tariff by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, did not amount to sentencing by an independent tribunal.

Lawyers for the two boys, now aged 17, are hoping the Human Rights Court will share those views.

But the Home Office argues that there was no breach of their human rights.

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