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Bulger case: Timeline of events

Surveillance cameras captured images of Thompson and Venables leading James Bulger away from his mother  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Following is a timeline of events in the case of James Bulger, killed aged two by 10-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables:

February 1993: Thompson and Venables lure James Bulger away from his mother while at a butcher's shop in the Bootle Strand shopping centre in Liverpool. Closed-circuit television cameras capture images of Thompson and Venables walking out of the centre with James, leading him by the hand. They walk 2 1/2 miles to a rail line, where they beat and stone James to death and leave him on the tracks to be cut in two by a train.

bush The James Bulger Case
  • Case overview
  • Killers' new lives
  • Internet threat
  • Memories of horror
  • Killers and victims
  • Blunkett statement
  • Timeline of events
  From TIME
  • Killer boys grow up
  • Photo essay

  Court rulings
  • 1997: House of Lords
  • 1999: European Court
  • 2000: Lord Chief Justice

  Related sites
  • Justice for James
  • UK Parole Board

  News archive
  • Pleas for restraint
  • Press breach probed
  • Reformers welcome move
  • Parents' fury at release
  • Freedom for killers
  • Killers face hurdle
  • Anger at decision
  • Sentence review due
  • European court ruling


November 1993: Following their arrest, Thompson and Venables are tried as adults in a courtroom in Preston, England. The jury finds them both guilty of murder, and the trial judge, Justice Morland, sentences them to be held for an indefinite period but not less than eight years.

December 1993: The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, increases the sentence from eight to 10 years, writing, "I have well in mind that the trial judge is in a better position than I to assess these two boys and their crime; also I agree that a much lesser tariff should apply than in the case of an adult. But I think the minimum period for punishment and deterrence should be 10 years."

Summer 1994: UK Home Secretary Michael Howard increases the sentences to 15 years, citing a petition signed by more than 275,000 people in support of life sentences and thousands of other signatures and letters demanding life terms or minimum 25-year sentences.

June 1997: Following judicial review proceedings, the House of Lords overturns the decision of Home Secretary Michael Howard to extend Thomson and Venables' sentences to 15 years, but the House of Lords sets no minimum term.

Former Home Secretary Michael Howard extended the sentences to 15 years, but his decision was overturned  

March 1999: The European Commission of Human Rights rules that Thompson and Venables were unfairly treated because their trial was "severely intimidatory" and held in a "highly charged" atmosphere. The pair had been tried in an adult court with some modifications in recognition of their age, such as a raised dock and shorter hearing hours. But the panel voted 14-5 that the proceedings violated Article 6 of the European Human Rights Convention.

December 1999: The European Court of Human Rights, echoing the conclusion of the European Commission of Human Rights, rules that Thompson and Venables had been treated unfairly because they were tried as adults. The European court says the rights of the two boys also were violated by the decision of then-British Home Secretary Michael Howard to increase their sentences to 15 years. The European court did not void Thompson and Venables' sentences but put pressure on Britain to amend legal practices, such as the right of a government minister to set prison terms for minors or send juveniles accused of serious offences to trial in an adult court.

October 2000: Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, reinstates Thompson and Venables' eight-year sentence, making them eligible for parole in February 2001. "The two boys have made striking progress in the secure unit in which they have been detained," Lord Woolf tells a packed London courtroom. Lord Woolf had been given the task of reviewing the killers' minimum sentence after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1999 that fixing of sentences for juvenile killers by the Home Secretary was a breach of the European Human Rights Convention and was something that only a court could decide.

European court
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Thompson and Venables' rights were violated  

January 2001: High Court Judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss grants Thompson and Venables an open-ended injunction ordering that when they are freed their new identities must not be disclosed by the news media. In the decision, the judge said the teenagers were "uniquely notorious" and would be in danger if anyone found out where they lived. She said they were at "serious risk of attacks from members of the public as well as from relatives and friends of the murdered child."

February 2001: The High Court turns down a bid by Ralph Bulger, James' father, to block the killers' release. He had argued that the sentence was so low it undermined confidence in the UK criminal justice system. The previous year he had said he would take revenge on the pair if he found them.

June 2001: Parole hearings begin for Thompson and Venables at secret locations. Demonstrators from the pressure group Mothers Against Murder and Aggression were outside the Parole Board's London headquarters as the hearings opened. A founding member of the group, Joe Rouse, said: "Public opinion far outweighs any plans to free the boys." The board approved the pair's release after deciding they were no longer a danger to the public.

• UK Parole Board
• Justice for James

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