James Bulger’s mother was reportedly left “shocked” last night after learning one of her son’s killers could be freed by Christmas.
Jon Venables, 40, was ten when he and Robert Thompson, now 39, kidnapped the toddler from a shopping center in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.
The two men tortured and killed the two-year-old before dumping his body on a railway line two and a half miles away in Liverpool.
Both were jailed for life, but released under a new identity on life license in June 2001. Thompson never reoffended, but Venables was caught with child sexual abuse images on his computer and recalled twice to prison, in 2010 and 2017.
He was jailed for 40 months but has now served double that after being refused release at the end of his sentence.
It emerged yesterday that a two-day hearing would be held on November 14 to determine whether he could be released again.
James Bulger’s mother was reportedly left “shocked” last night after learning one of her son’s killers could be freed by Christmas. Pictured: James Bulger
Jon Venables, 40, was ten when he and Robert Thompson, now 39, kidnapped the toddler from a shopping center in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993. The pair tortured and killed the two-year-old before dumping his body by a railway line two and a half miles away in Liverpool. Pictured: Jon Vernables in 1993
Despite requests for the hearing to be held in public, it will be held behind closed doors, with a three-person parole board taking testimony in private from corrections officers, probation officers and psychiatrists.
Victim impact statements from James’ mother Denise Fergus, 54, and father Ralph Bulger, 55, who both pleaded with the Parole Board to reject Venables’ application for release, will also be read.
Typically, parole decisions are made within 14 days, meaning Venables could be free in time for Christmas.
Yesterday a source told the Mail that Ms Fergus was not informed of the parole hearing date before it appeared in the media. “She is in shock,” they said.
She previously told the Parole Board: “If you let him go free, you could ruin the life of another family like ours. When you look at Venables’ record, just remember what he’s capable of. He killed my son James, did it again and again, and I’m convinced he would kill another child if released.
Under current rules, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has the power to ask the Parole Board to reconsider its decision if it decides to release Venables. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the minister was giving the matter his “great personal attention”.
Tougher measures currently being considered by Parliament, under the Victims and Prisoners Bill, would give ministers the power to veto decisions to release repeat or most serious offenders.
The bill follows widespread concerns that parole boards are too lenient after the scandals surrounding black cab rapist John Worboys and double child killer Colin Pitchfork.
It will also reform the role of the Parole Board chair to ensure they focus on strategic leadership and have no influence over individual parole decisions.
A source told the Mail that James’ mother, Denise Fergus, 54, was not informed of the parole hearing date before it appeared in the media. “She is in shock,” they said. Pictured above is James Bulger
Before the decision to hear the parole hearing behind closed doors was announced, Mr Bulger told The Sun: “If the Justice Secretary is serious about reform then he must allow me to be present at Venables’ parole hearing.
“I want Venables to hear why I think he should be refused parole. For too long, victims and their families have been ignored while authorities prioritized the so-called rights of dangerous criminals.
The Parole Board said its decisions “focus solely on the risk a prisoner might pose to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.”
A spokesperson added: “A panel will carefully consider a wide range of evidence, including details of the original crime and any evidence of changes in behavior, and will also explore the harm caused and the impact of the crime on the victims.
“Parole reviews are conducted thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.
Mr Chalk told Politics Hub With Sophy Ridge last night: “It’s a terrible case. It is a problem that remains etched in the memory of a nation and, frankly, in that of all of us.
“There is a process that allows me to make presentations based on the information that comes to me. I must act correctly.
“But I will do everything in my power to ensure that justice is served in a way that British people understand.”