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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Parents may challenge Bulger ruling
Denise Fergus and Ralph Bulger
James' parents both opposed the High Court ruling
The parents of toddler James Bulger may launch legal moves to challenge the Lord Chief Justice's ruling which has started the parole process for their son's killers.

Home Secretary Jack Straw is being urged to set up an appeals process, a judicial review could be sought and representations will be made to the Parole Board.

Thursday's ruling by Lord Woolf means Jon Venables and Robert Thompson could be free within months.

James' father Ralph Bulger said it was "a disappointment but not a surprise".

Robert Thomspon
Robert Thompson could be released soon
Mother Denise Fergus, who was in court and sobbed as the ruling was delivered, said she was "disgusted and shocked".

Lord Woolf told the High Court in London that the minimum sentence tariff for Venables and Thompson would expire immediately.

"This will enable the very difficult task of deciding if and how these young men should return to society to begin," he said.

Mr Bulger, who has remarried since the killing of his son, accused Lord Woolf of ignoring representations he had made about the sentence the boys should serve.

And he said neither Thompson nor Venables, now aged 18, had ever said sorry to his family over the crime.

"No expression of remorse has been expressed," he said in a statement.

Jon Venables
Jon Venables: Lawyers for both boys welcomed Thursday's decision
"Before release into the community can be considered this issue ought to be addressed."

His solicitor, Mr Makin, said the situation had worsened for Mr Bulger's family, in direct contrast to that of the boys.

"Ralph and his side of the family are suffering more and more," he said.

"Lord Woolf has completely ignored the will of the people and public opinion as to what the criminal justice system is all about.

"These two boys still haven't apologised to Ralph. If they are truly rehabilitated you would think that would be relatively easy.

"We have written to their solicitors about this and haven't had any response. It seems they may be being reinvented rather than rehabilitated."

Mr Makin said he would press the home secretary to set up an appeals process.

Lord Woolf
Lord Woolf's ruling could mean the killers will be released early next year
Representations will be made to the Parole Board which must now decide whether the teenagers are a risk and whether they are suitable for release.

A judicial review of Lord Woolf's decision could also be sought.

Denise Fergus said her son's killers had "got away with murder".

"Thompson and Venables never gave James a chance," she said.

"So far, they have enjoyed an easy life in a children's home. Now they will never be legally punished for what they did."

The retired police officer who brought the boys to justice, former Detective Superintendent Albert Kirby, was "flabbergasted" that the killers could soon be free.

"Bearing in mind the premeditation and the severity, eight years is woefully inadequate," he said.

'Unparalleled barbarity'

Thompson and Venables were aged 10 when they murdered two-year-old James, after abducting him from a shopping centre on Merseyside in February 1993.

The trial judge recommended they serve at least eight years for what he called "an act of unparalleled barbarity".

The tariff was then increased to 10 years by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, and again to 15 years by former Home Secretary Michael Howard.

But he was ruled to have acted illegally by the European Court of Human Rights and the decision was referred to Lord Woolf by Jack Straw.

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16 Dec 99 | UK
Q&A: The Bulger case
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