Bulger father fails to block killers' release

The father of James Bulger has failed in his High Court bid to block the early release of his son's killers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

The father of James Bulger has failed in his High Court bid to block the early release of his son's killers, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables.

Three senior judges rejected accusations that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, had set a minimum sentence for the toddler's killers which was so low that it threatened to "undermine confidence in the criminal justice system".

Lord Justice Rose, sitting with Mr Justice Sullivan and Mr Justice Penry-Davey, ruled that Ralph Bulger did not have legal standing to challenge the tariff.

The decision was a bitter defeat for Mr Bulger, 34, in his attempt to overturn Lord Woolf's recommendation last October which allows Thompson and Venables to be considered for parole in the near future.

In his ruling, Lord Woolf took into account that neither boy had shown "any aggression or propensity for violence during his period of detention" after being sentenced.

Lawyers for Mr Bulger, argued Lord Woolf's recommendation to reduce the child killer's tariff for retribution and deterrence to seven years and eight months must be quashed because of the new evidence about Thompson and other fatal flaws in the judge's decision.

It was claimed the tariff, rubber-stamped by Home Secretary Jack Straw, should be reconsidered because of the "astounding" failure of the Home Office authorities to tell the judge of newspaper reports that Thompson had been involved in two violent incidents.

Lord Woolf went wrong in law when he cut the tariff because he put rehabilitation before the needs of punishment and deterrence, lawyers for Mr Bulger claimed.

The child killers, who were 10 when they abducted and tortured two-year-old James on a railway line in Liverpool in 1993, have so far served their sentences in secure local authority accommodation.

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