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Britain: Toddler Killers to be Set Free

Aired June 22, 2001 - 10:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to turn to a developing story out of Britain, where two former schoolboys convicted of killing a 2-year-old back in 1993 are now to be freed after serving eight years. Today's announcement has shocked many in Britain, much like the brutal killing did eight years ago.

For the latest, let's go to our Sheila MacVicar, who is standing by in London.

Sheila, hello, once again.

SHEILA MACVICAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn.

Well, the home secretary, Britain's interior minister, has announced that the parole board has said that the two, now 18-year- olds, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were convicted eight years ago of what was truly a terrible murder of 2-year-old Jamie Bulger, can be released. Eight years was the minimum term they had to spend in incarceration. They have met that term. They applied for parole.

The parole board could have decided that they wanted them to spend more time in prison or a secure accommodation, but has decided that the most important reason for the decision is that they have concluded that they pose no risk to the community.

Now, most unusually in this case, what will happen is that when these young men leave their secure accommodations, they will leave with completely new names and new identities. There will be nothing, the government hopes, that will link them back to the child killers. And this is done, at least in part, to protect the two from those who would wish to try and track them down -- Daryn

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sheila, as part of that, it might help to explain to our viewers why the one photo we have of the two killers -- and maybe we can put that back up again -- is from when they were little boys, perhaps 9, 10 years old. And, in fact, part of the court order is that no one's supposed to track down -- no journalists are supposed to track down these teenagers and take new pictures and publish those pictures. Is that right?

MACVICAR: That picture is taken -- it's a -- or a school photograph taken around the time when the boys in fact committed the murder. They are about 10 years old in that photo. And the government hopes that that is the last image we ever have of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.

There is an injunction in place which protects their new identities and which prevents anyone in this country from publishing or broadcasting any information about the two under their new identities.

Now, there is one other case in this country similar to this. It was a case of young girl named Mary Bell, who at the age of 11 killed two children. Upon her release from prison, she too was given a new identity. And she managed successfully to live under that identity for 30 years. At that time, she told her story to a journalist and she was unmasked. They hope, of course, that this will not happen in this case.

KAGAN: And also, we should say and perhaps explain that these two teenagers will be freed, but they're on something that's called on "license for life." Explain to Americans back here what that means.

MACVICAR: Basically, they're on parole for life. They will have probation officers for the rest of their lives. They will have to apply if they want to leave the country to go on a vacation. Any decision they take in their lives they will take in coordination and in cooperation with a probation officer.

If there is any indication that either one of the two, again, poses a risk to other people, they can be immediately reprisoned -- reimprisoned. There will be some mechanism -- we don't exactly know how -- it is very confidential -- that will, in some cases, be able to link the new identities to the names of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. So if, for example, one of the two were picked up for another crime, it would be possible for police and authorities to determine who is who. But that's the reason why that is being done.

KAGAN: Sheila MacVicar in London -- Sheila, thank you.

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