James Bulger’s mother in ‘shock’ over prospect of Jon Venables being freed

The mother of James Bulger has said the prospect of Jon Venables’s release from prison has left her in “a state of shock”.

Venables, now 41, could be freed from prison before Christmas after it was confirmed that he would have a two-day parole hearing in November.

He was jailed in 2017 after being convicted for a second time of possessing child sexual abuse images, including some that showed attacks on male toddlers.

Venables, who is living under an alias, is subject to lifelong licence conditions for his role in the murder of two-year-old Bulger in February 1993.

Bulger’s mother, Denise Fergus, has argued for years that he should never be freed from prison because of the risk he poses to the public.

She said on Thursday that the prospect of him being released later this year had left her in “a state of shock”.

Kym Morris, the chair of the James Bulger Memorial Trust, said Fergus was “deeply concerned” about Venables, who she considers to be “one of the biggest dangers to our country”.

Morris added: “She firmly believes that if he is released, he will undoubtedly offend again. The recent news regarding his parole has left her in a state of shock. The thought of him being allowed back into our communities is undeniably alarming.”

She went on to thank members of the public for their support “during this difficult time”, adding: “Your unwavering support is greatly appreciated.”

Bulger’s murder remains one of the most harrowing, and far-reaching, crimes of the past century in Britain and evokes strong public emotion 30 years on.

Venables and his schoolfriend Robert Thompson were both 10 when they murdered James after taking him from his mother’s side in a shopping centre in Merseyside in 1993.

The killers remain the youngest people to have stood trial for murder in the UK. The pair have new identities, but only Thompson has stayed out of custody since their release in 2001.

A two-day parole hearing has been set for 14 November and will be heard in private, despite efforts to open up the Parole Board process.

A three-person panel will decide whether Venables, who has a new identity, continues to pose a risk to the public after reviewing evidence including testimony from prison and probation officials, and Venables himself.

If the panel believes he poses little risk, he could in theory be released within days – although the justice secretary, Alex Chalk, has the power to ask for the decision to be reviewed and would probably exercise this right.

Venables has reoffended multiple times since his original release in 2001. He was arrested in 2008 for affray and possession of cocaine. Two years later, he was jailed after pleading guilty to downloading images of child abuse.

He was released after being granted parole in 2013 but was back in prison four years later after being convicted of possessing child abuse images for a second time.

The material included a “paedophile manual” and more than 1,100 unlawful photos or videos, one-third in the most serious category. Some showed the sexual abuse of male toddlers. He applied for a parole hearing in 2020, but was refused.


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