Jon Venables

Lord Soley

This very powerful and emotional case is bound to lead to intense  speculation. We do not know for sure what is alleged  and we do not want to prejudice any court proceedings – or I hope we don’t!

There was a question in both Houses yesterday and in the Lords the judges and lawyers were very vocal. I want to put the following quote in full from Baroness Butler – Sloss because of her involvement in this case. I  find myself in large agreement with her. The quote is :

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I declare an interest as the judge who made the order for the anonymity of these boys. I respectfully agree with everything that the Government have done so far. I have a rather different question. This young man may or may not be tried; he may or may not have committed offences. There is at least the possibility that he has committed no offence. Consequently, he may, therefore, be allowed again to be out on licence. I hope the Government will take carefully into account the enormous importance of protecting his anonymity now and if he is released. Those who wanted to kill him in 2001 are likely to be out there now.

A timely reminder of the intense passions raised in this case.

The full transcript of the question is  here:

28 comments for “Jon Venables

  1. 09/03/2010 at 6:22 pm

    As much as the press may not like it, the concepts of “a fair trial” and “innocent until proven guilty” must prevail. Venables anonymity is essential for both of these. At the end of the day, he deserves as much protection under the law as is afforded to any other citizen no matter how reviled he is for his past crime.

  2. Carl.H
    09/03/2010 at 7:03 pm

    Mmmm Heart and mind question.

    My mind say`s that too much information has been fed to the lions already. The man is still innocent of any new allegation so nothing should have been in the news etc. Jack Straw should learn “No Comment”, nothing at present is proven or conclusive, afaik.

    I do not like politicians interferring with the judicial system, they are not trained and tend to do things for political motivation. The Supreme Court should deal entirely with these high profile cases.


    My heart say`s my wife is right.

    Those who wanted to kill him in 2001 are likely to be out there now.

    Strangely so are the ones who wanted to kill James Bulger.

  3. Dave H
    09/03/2010 at 7:18 pm

    I agree that he needs to be kept anonymous unless he’s found guilty, but that opens another question as to what happens if he is. Any hint as to who he is could be held to affect a jury. On the other side, if another defendant is wrongly associated with the name, it could prejudice a different trial.

    At the point of a guilty verdict he’s obviously breached his licence conditions and so should be returned to jail, presumably on a life sentence plus whatever extra sentence he attracts, and at some point it will become apparent that prisoner X is staying longer than would be expected by his public sentence for the new offence and his identity could be deduced.

  4. Andrew Tilley
    09/03/2010 at 7:38 pm

    I think the problem here is that Denise Fergus claims she was promised some level of detail by the Home Secretary when the boys were released on licence in 2001 – either this is true or it isn’t – of that I think we should be told.

    The other issue is – will we be told any details of the any further offences further down the line? It’s pretty clear to me, from what’s been printed in the papers, that breaches of the licence may have occurred before this point. This makes it look like a face-saving operation due to the overwhelming criticism that would ensue.

  5. Wolfie
    09/03/2010 at 8:42 pm

    Let me give you another scenario.

    The probation service have screwed up. They haven’t monitored him. He’s been drinking heavily, taking drugs, visiting Liverpool …

    Now if you were the minister in charge, with an election coming up, how convinient is it to bury the bad news?

  6. Twm O'r Nant
    09/03/2010 at 9:28 pm

    The value of anonymity in such a case may have been limited, except for one thing the likelihood of his having a clear conscience expressed by the “new start” given to him by the judges. Without that the anonymity would have been worthless.

    A new start in a new country would have been best….

  7. 09/03/2010 at 10:01 pm

    I cannot understand how so much is done to protect Venables. What about the poor boy murdered and his family? This i not justice, he should not of been let out.

    • Twm O'r Nant
      10/03/2010 at 10:12 am

      ” This i not justice, he should not of been let out.”

      Of the shopping centre you mean? But they had CCTV.

    • Twm O'r Nant.
      12/03/2010 at 9:34 am

      “I cannot understand how so much is done to protect Venables. What about the poor boy murdered and his family? This i not justice,”

      The theory today is that there are two parties to a crime, and that the suffering party should not have been there or got in the way, and since the toddler did, then the guilty party should not have done what he did.

      It is hard to know, even after the conviction ,hue and cry.

  8. Troika21
    10/03/2010 at 2:58 am

    Its been distressing watching the angry ranting morons in the tabloids and else-where attack a child who, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.

    Look at at ’em all in the comments above, no intrest in understanding, no concren for what is right, just nashing teeth.

    He did something that breached his parole, stupidly, but most of what he was doing was legal, not that it matters, even that he was drinking, something that is perfectly legal, is being used to attack him.

    The people attacking the former Jon Venables do not want justice, or anything noble, like they pretend to. They themselves want another human being to suffer, yet they dare to cloud their primative vigilantism with cries of justice.

    • Carl.H
      10/03/2010 at 11:04 am

      “Look at at ‘em all in the comments above”

      Er Troika can you see something I can`t ? The above comments save one mostly say about justice and anonimity still. However you say:

      “He did something that breached his parole”

      Oh you`ve decided he WAS guilty then, based on ?

      • Troika21
        10/03/2010 at 7:22 pm

        I’ve tried to avoid getting involved with this, partly because I was 6 when the incident that Venables was convicted of happened and partly because it has nothing to do with me.

        I can see from your own comment that you’re not advocating tabloid-justice, I was mostly reading the three comments above mine from jenny, Twm O’r Nant and Wolfie. Perhaps I was a bit visceral myself. But most of the comments relating to justice are about the victims family, without regard to the former Venables, or what ‘justice’ might mean for him.

        I don’t know the conditions for his release from prison, I understood that he was instructed to keep away from Merseyside, and failed to do so, that was what I was given to understand, the exact conditions are unknown to me and I wrote from ignorance.

    • Carl.H
      11/03/2010 at 12:49 am

      Troika, I apologise, looking at my post it appears I may have snapped a bit it was unintentional.

    • Matt
      14/03/2010 at 10:02 pm

      The people attacking the former Jon Venables do not want justice, or anything noble, like they pretend to. They themselves want another human being to suffer, yet they dare to cloud their primative vigilantism with cries of justice.

      Eloquently put–the essence of this is exactly what any critical analysis will, without fail, conclude.

  9. Baronessmurphy
    10/03/2010 at 9:31 am

    i am in agreement with Lady Butler Sloss and Lord Soley on this and pleased to see that overall that view prevails in the comments here over the more punitive. I thought Jack Straw gave the whole question very serious thought and came out with the right judgement. The real issue of course is the exposure to an adult murder charge of the two children who perpetrated the crime in the first place; that’s a travesty of justice. The idea that a court trial is an appropriate way to deal with these type of offences by children seems fundamentally wrong-headed to me. The victim’s mother’s pain is unlikely to be assuaged by what she is asking for and treating the two living boys as if they were adults when they committed the crime also seems morally wrong to me.

    • Gareth Howell.
      10/03/2010 at 7:35 pm

      Baroness Murphy speaks every word of wisdom on the question. As they say in Tuscany “Grazie”.

  10. 10/03/2010 at 6:42 pm

    Firstly, before everyone piles in on this, I would point out that Baroness Murphy seems to be objecting to adult trials for children, not the Bulger killers’ convictions (perhaps she can clarify?).

    Secondly, I’m not so sure that an adult trial wasn’t merited in this particular case. A key idea of the British legal system is that “justice be seen to be done”. While I agree that children are normally an exception to this idea, I think in the case of James Bulger’s killers the level of public interest/anger meant that a full trial was inevitable.

    • Sharon J
      10/03/2010 at 10:20 pm

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the Thompson/Venables case ruled unfair by the European Court of Human Rights? Are you saying that if public outrage is high enough, an individual should lose their human right to a fair trial?

      • 10/03/2010 at 11:51 pm

        No, I actually think that the trial was inadvisable. I fail to see how a jury could not have been biased in the media conditions at the time. Michel Howard’s sentence increase (from 8 to 15 years) is also inexcusable (although this was later overturned by the Law Lords). Both of these were highlighted by the European Court of Justice in 1999.

        When under prosecution for murder, children must be tried in a Crown Court (rather than a Youth Court) according to English law ( This is standard and I see little problem in the “adult court” aspect of their trials.

        I am merely saying that it is important that “justice be seen to be done”. In a child’s case this idea is usually ignored, with the case being held in the less dramatic setting of a Youth Court. This is because the welfare of the suspect/child is more important than upholding a symbolic principle. In the conditions surrounding the Bulger case (and all children suspected of murder), the symbolic principle suddenly becomes very important and a Crown Court case must be held.

      • 11/03/2010 at 12:09 am

        Basically, I do think the Bulger case was flawed but not because of the “adult trial” argument.

  11. 10/03/2010 at 6:56 pm

    I think that this trial by the so called, popular media.

    Sure the case raises concerns, but the reality is that there is a system in place to manage it and it must be allowed to run its course.

    Bring back the ‘D’ Notice system to gag the press and media who are screaming for blood.

    • 11/03/2010 at 12:10 pm

      what a superficial,un-empathic answer….now, why don’t you just write that to Jamie’s mother, and the heaven’s at the same time …. if he never was not your own child…make personnel… mr.. whatever you say you are write to jamies dad with your absolutest comments…. poor education…where is your heart…mr.
      what did you do , leave in the office drawer under…well, we both know about that now don’t we. Well,just pick it out, make a comment and put the file back and forget about it, no promotion for this piece of…..
      Tell me, help me, to find a reason why you wrote what you cold…so indifferent….what can I say but to say this…the worst tears are children’s tears, but more above that is the crime of
      indiffence…that is …the worst crime of all. there can be….no greater crim.e

      • Twm O'r Nant.
        12/03/2010 at 9:42 am

        “the crime of
        indiffence…that is …the worst crime of all. there can be….no greater crim.e”

        Indifference is probably the best thing to be.

        The instinct for self preservation is surely far better than involvement in every murder anywhere in the world, that a news hack cares to mention?

        Righteous indignation about a murder in Brazil, that you read about by chance, is surely emotion ill spent?

        Deep emotion should surely be kept for private matters?

  12. Baronessmurphy
    14/03/2010 at 7:34 pm

    Governing Principles, “Justice being seen to be done” so often seems to mean the mob getting what they want. And what exactly was justice in this case? When such young children commit horrifying and incomprehensible acts, the judicial system doesn’t produce the right tools to produce justice. It can find facts, it can judge predisposing factors, it can make a judgement on the future of the children concerned but it doesn’t produce ‘justice’

    • 14/03/2010 at 10:42 pm

      Baroness Murphy:
      I’m not certain that declaring the legal system unfit to handle such a case is quite true. However, as you have not highlighted specific issues with the justice system, this is too wide a claim to refute. Concentrating on the Bulger case, I certainly believe that more could have been done to dampen the effects of media outrage on the trial (probably putting the jury up in a hotel away from news coverage).

      “Justice must be seen to be done” is somewhat about the “mob” getting what they want. It is about the general public seeing for themselves that the justice system works. When people do not believe in the justice system they are likely to take the law into their own hands. Better a mob with a microphone than a mob with baseball bats.

      However, if you are willing to go back to the original quotation and the case it came from, “Justice must be seen to be done” also upholds your dismay at the original trial.

      “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” Lord Chief Justice Hewart, 1924 (R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy).

      The ruling did not relate to the public nature of trials but to the appearance of bias within the legal system. In the case, Lord Hewart overturned a conviction on the basis of an apparent conflict of interests and established the principle that not just bias but “the perception of bias” is enough to overturn a conviction. With the aggressive media attention lavished on the trial, it is certainly possible to argue that the jury would have been unable to avoid bias when they returned their verdict. Seeing as only the perception of bias would be enough to overturn the conviction, this idea should have been enough force a retrial.

  13. Sue
    26/03/2010 at 9:43 am

    You will have to pardon my ignorance/lack of understanding/skepticism, however, if Jon Venables has an assumed anonymous identity, how is it that everyone knows he was taken into custody? How is it that the information that he was suspected of issues related to child pornography made the news? That does’t sound to anonymous to me, a bit like this NHS Record Share scheme, if this is how the UK government treat something that is confidential and it still gets out to the media, then just imagine the fiasco when all of your medical history including medications you are on, any time you’ve been sectioned, any treatment you’ve had for anything comes out! This Record Scheme will cause people to not come forward for fear of loss of privacy (I’m thinking HIV screens here). Yes, it is possible to “opt out” but the NHS don’t make it easy, they don’t provide the form in the letter for you and you have to dig online until you find it for yourself.

    Either we know the idenitities of the two boys (now men) and what they are up to, or we don’t know their identities and what their current status with the police is as persons of interest or custodial status.

    And the Government wants to mandate idenitity cards, what the dickens are passports, and driving licences then? I have two forms of national identification, I have my UK Driving Licence, and I have my passport, which I had to send to the DVLA in order to get my licence. Why do I need yet another ID card in my purse that stores my details on yet another database for someone to come along and assume my identity.

    This man is supposed to have an anonymous identity, yet his suspected/alleged activities are known in the news, if he is not to be named, how is it that we all know this? If this is how you treat someone who was given court mandated anonymity, how will you treat people whose details you store on this database?

  14. Sue
    26/03/2010 at 9:54 am

    One thing I forgot to mention in my previous comment is of course the shock and outrage of the crime that these boys committed and the torture that the toddler went through before ultimately having his life snuffed out. That is something that can never be forgotten especially by his parents. They live everyday with never seeing their son again, and his younger siblings never had the chance to know him. I wonder if his parents live looking over their shoulder each time they go out, wondering if they are being spied on by the people who did this to their son. Regardless of what Jon Venables did or did not do, was suspected of or not suspected of in this instance we cannot forget that his family get to see him and talk to him each day, that is something that Jamie Bulgar’s family will never have.

    I also feel sorry for the man who came forward and said that he has been mistaken for Venables – that is a horrible situation for him, he lives in fear everyday. However, is this really the case, or is Venables pretending to not be Venables and blatantly coming forward and putting himself in the media? It would be a very clever ploy, don’t you think?

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