Judge rules Venables' identity must stay secret

Judge rules Venables' identity must stay secret

The new identity of killer Jon Venables must be kept secret because of the “compelling evidence” of a threat to his safety, a judge said today.

Mr Justice Bean ruled that “unpopular” defendants had as much right to protection from retribution as anyone else.

Venables, one of the killers of toddler James Bulger, was jailed for two years last week after admitting child pornography offences.

The Old Bailey heard that he was still receiving death threats after he and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, battered and murdered two-year-old James in 1993.

Both were jailed for life the following year before being released on licence in 2001, when they were given new names and wide-ranging legal restrictions were put in place to prevent anyone finding them out.

Mr Justice Bean decided last week to continue the restrictions – although he allowed the media to report that Venables had been living in Cheshire prior to being recalled to custody for the new crimes.

Giving his reasons today, the judge said: “There is understandable and legitimate public interest in the fact that one of James Bulger’s killers has now been convicted of child pornography offences.

“But there is no legitimate public interest in knowing his appearance, his location in custody or the exact location at which he was arrested and to which he might return on the event of being released.

“If there is, it is of marginal significance when set against the compelling evidence of a clear and present danger to his physical safety and indeed his life if these facts are made public.”

He added: “It is a fundamental duty of the state to ensure that suspects, defendants and prisoners are protected from violence and not subjected to retribution or punishment except in accordance with the sentence of a court.

“That principle applies just as much to unpopular defendants as to anyone else.”

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