Venables to get new identity

Killer Jon Venables will be given a new identity at a cost to the British taxpayer of £250,000 (€298,811), it was reported today.

Killer Jon Venables will be given a new identity at a cost to the British taxpayer of £250,000 (€298,811), it was reported today.

He was jailed for two years after admitting downloading pornographic images of toddlers.

The Daily Telegraph reported Venables - who along with Robert Thompson battered and murdered two-year-old James Bulger - will be issued with a new birth certificate, national insurance number and other identity documents at a cost of £250,000 (€298,811) when he is released.

However, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said it did not accept it was "inevitable" he would be given a new identity.

She said: "Such a change of identity is extremely rare and granted only when the police assess that there is clear and credible evidence of a sustained threat to the offender's life on release into the community."

Venables and his friend Thompson were just 10 when they killed James in Bootle, Merseyside, and became national hate figures.

They were jailed for life in 1993 and given new identities when they were released on licence in 2001.

Extensive measures were taken to protect the pair from vigilantes and help them lead a normal life but after several years Venables descended into a spiral of cocaine and mephedrone addiction and drunken violence.

The 27-year-old - who still faces death threats - appeared via videolink at the Old Bailey yesterday under unprecedented secrecy, with only the judge able to see him.

After 16 years living in the shadows, just four disembodied words were heard from the killer - answering "yes" to his name and pleading "guilty" to three charges concerning child pornography.

James's mother, Denise Fergus, sat impassively in court wearing a "Justice for James" badge as details of the crimes, and Venables' life since release from jail, were read out. She later condemned his sentence as "simply not enough".

Speaking after the hearing, Venables' solicitor, John Gibson, said his client was "extremely remorseful" and knows he has "badly let down" everyone who has tried to help him.

The solicitor added: "He has said that every day since what took place in 1993 he has thought about how different life might have been for all those affected, who he appreciates have also had their own reasons for reflection."

It was in February this year that Venables was arrested and recalled over child pornography allegations.

The court heard he had contacted his probation officer because he feared his true identity had been discovered.

The officer arrived at his address and told him to collect his belongings, and he was found trying to delete files from his computer and to remove his hard drive with a tin opener.

Louis Mably, prosecuting, said Venables was taken to a police station with the machine and it was later examined by officers.

He said: "A total of 57 indecent images of children were found."

Sentencing Venables, Mr Justice Bean said that as he was still on licence for the "horrific" murder of James, he would not be automatically released on serving half his two-year term, and when he was let out would be up to the parole board to decide.

He was also put on the sex offenders register for 10 years and banned from working with children for life.

Anthony Hudson QC, representing the national media, said in court earlier the decision to allow only the judge to see Venables via videolink was a "very serious departure" from the principal of open justice.

But the judge said: "There is evidence to the effect that there is very considerable risk to Mr Venables' life if his identity becomes public."

Following Venables' sentence, some media organisations had applied to be able to report his new name.

But lawyers for the killer and the Attorney General voiced concerns about the move.

It was claimed this would put him at further risk from attack in prison and could mean he would have to adopt another new identity on his eventual release.

Details of a police document about the potential impact of naming him assessed it as three on a scale of one to three, the court heard.

It said this would be reduced if he were to be given a new identity.

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