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2001: Bulger killers win anonymity for life

The identities and whereabouts of the two boys who murdered toddler James Bulger in 1993 are to be kept secret for the rest of their lives, the High Court has ruled.

Lawyers for Jon Venables and Robert Thompson - who were both aged 10 when they committed the murder - successfully argued that their anonymity should be protected by law after their release, which could be in a few months' time.

The decision was based on fears that the boys would become victims of revenge attacks if information about their new identities became known.

Last October the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, effectively ended the boys' sentence after eight years in secure accommodation, ruling that they should be considered for immediate parole rather than transfer to the "corrosive atmosphere" of young offenders' institutions.

Public opinion 'running high'

In her ruling on the boys' anonymity, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said there was "the real possibility of serious physical harm and possibly death from vengeful members of the public and from the Bulger family".

A family friend of the Bulgers, Lesley Halligan, reacted angrily to the court ruling. She said: "Public opinion is running very high and the fact that they are getting new identities and total anonymity paid for by the taxpayers' money is totally wrong."

The ban on identifying the boys only covers publication in England and Wales.

On 12 February 1993, Venables and Thompson abducted two-year-old James from a shopping centre in Bootle, near Liverpool, before battering him to death and leaving his body on a railway line.

The case provoked widespread public anger and outrage, and the boys were placed in a secure detention unit.

In Context
In June 2001 the Parole Board recommended the release of Thompson and Venables, both aged 18, on life licences and they were moved to undisclosed locations with new identities.

Stories emerged of threats by protesters to publish a recent photo of one of the teenagers on the internet, which is mainly out of the jurisdiction of UK law.

The Manchester Evening News was found guilty of contempt of court over an article about the boys' whereabouts published just hours after the Parole Board ruled they could be released.

The court order prohibiting publication of any information likely to lead to their identification is still in place.


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