Decision on release of James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables is delayed

A Parole Board decision on whether Jon Venables will be released from jail has been delayed so that more psychiatric reports can be completed.

Venables, 36, was jailed in 1993 after he and Robert Thompson, then both aged 10, tortured and killed James Bulger, two, after luring him away from his mum in a Merseyside shopping centre. They were both released on licence with new identities in 2001.

In 2010, Venables was then sent back to prison for possessing indecent images of children, and again for the same crime in 2017. He is currently serving a 40-month sentence, passing the halfway mark in October.

Earlier this year, the Parole Board confirmed a review of his case had been referred and it would determine whether a hearing needed to take place to decide if he should be released.

But the case has now been deferred until August while the board awaits the findings of more psychiatric reports. It will then be decided whether there will be a hearing.

There is a suspected monthly backlog of more than 1,000 cases waiting to be heard by the board due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Efforts have been made to conduct remote hearings or decide cases ‘on paper’ by considering documents where possible and appropriate, but the board is reluctant to address serious convicts, such as murderers, violent sex offenders and terrorists, this way.

In Venables’ case, if there is there is no doubt that he should remain in jail, the case will be decided on paper.

But if there is any uncertainty, a hearing will need to take place to consider the risk he presents to the public and whether he can be released.

In August, James’ mum Denise Fergus pleaded with the board to deny Venables early release, urging them to ‘finally admit this man is a threat and danger to society’.

In a statement, she said: ‘If this is not the case then the handling of the parole hearing needs to be done in a manner where all past offences are taken into question, due to Venables showing no remorse or any signs of being rehabilitated.’

James’ father Ralph Bulger also said he had warned against Venables’ release in 2013 but the parole board was ‘hoodwinked’ into thinking the killer was reformed.

He said: ‘Venables is up for parole any time now, and if it is granted he will be released into the community under a fake name and secret new identity. He is a dangerous, predatory child abuser and killer, and I am terrified he will strike again and harm another child like my James.

‘He has proven he will never be rehabilitated and will always remain a danger to children. I don’t believe he will stop until he has killed again. The parole board have the power to prevent him having the chance to harm young children again.’

A Parole Board spokesman said public safety was the ‘number one priority’ and the panel would ‘carefully look at a range of evidence, including details of the original case, and any evidence of behaviour change’.