Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

James Bulger's mother says killer 'where he belongs'

James Bulger
James Bulger was murdered on Merseyside in 1993

The mother of murdered toddler James Bulger has said killer Jon Venables is "where he belongs, behind bars".

In her first reaction to his return to custody, Denise Fergus also said on Twitter, "is this my son's justice?".

Venables, 27, was recalled to prison last week after breaching the terms of his release. He and Robert Thompson killed James on Merseyside in 1993.

The home secretary said the public had a right to know why he was returned to custody, but refused to give details.

Two-year-old James was abducted by Venables and Thompson while at the Strand shopping centre in Bootle.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson could not give details of why Venables was back in custody

His battered body was found by children playing on a freight railway line more than two miles from the shopping centre, and 200 yards from Walton Lane police station in Liverpool.

The killers were given life sentences, but released in 2001 with new identities and under certain licence conditions.

Family members said Mrs Fergus remained unaware of the nature of Venables' breach. The precise details were not released by the Ministry of Justice.

Both Thompson and Venables were given new identities when they were released. An order prohibiting the publication of details which could reveal their whereabouts has since remained in place.

Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent
Danny Shaw,
Home affairs correspondent

It is understood from an official source that this is the first time that Jon Venables has been recalled to prison.

The Parole Board will have the case papers sent to them within 28 days, and a three person tribunal will be set up - chaired by a judge - to determine if it is safe to release Venables. It may take some time to convene as fresh reports may be needed.

James Bulger's parents have the right to make a written statement and to read it out at the parole hearing.

Hearings are normally held in the prison where the offender is held, but it is possible the high profile of this case will necessitate a change of venue. It is not a public hearing.

Experts say that when life licence offenders are recalled to prison it likely to be because they have been charged with an offence or their behaviour causes a concern that they pose a risk. Offenders can also be recalled for not complying with their specific release conditions.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said he could not reveal the reasons behind Venables' recall to custody.

"I believe the public do have a right to know and I believe they will know all the facts in due course."

Later, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said it was in the public interest that it be kept secret.

"I know there's an intense public interest in why he has been recalled," said Mr Straw.

"I would like to give that information but I'm sorry that for good reasons I can't and that's in the public interest."

He confirmed the Bulger family has not been told the reasons for the recall.

"For very good reason we have had to keep restricted details as to why Mr Venables has been recalled.

"I was however very anxious that the victim's family should know that he was being recalled before they found it out from the newspapers."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation union, said Venables could have been recalled to custody under two procedures.

It could be an emergency procedure in which he would have to be charged with a serious offence, or a standard incident, perhaps involving a technicality such as a failure to keep appointments with a probation officer, Mr Fletcher said.

In an interview on BBC Radio Merseyside, Venables' solicitor at the trial, Laurence Lee, said it was a "bit early to condemn him completely until we know what he has done".

Jon Venables
Venables was released from custody in 2001 and given a new identity

He added: "If he went to Merseyside when he shouldn't have done or if he contacted Thompson, goodness knows why he should, going by the hatred that developed on the part of Venables towards him, I'd be surprised.

"But if it's a breach of a condition not to go somewhere or not to speak to somebody or not to carry out certain meetings, that kind of thing, then it should be a minor breach and presumably he wouldn't be in custody for long."

Venables will appear before a hearing of the Parole Board to consider the reason for recall.

The outcome of such hearings is not usually made public, but a spokesman for the Parole Board said it was likely the result would be released because of the high profile nature of the case.


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