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Freedom for UK toddler killers

The boys will be given new identities
The boys will be given new identities  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Two former schoolboys convicted of killing a two-year-old toddler are to be released after serving the minimum eight years for a crime described by the trial judge as "unparalleled evil and barbarity."

The two -- now both aged 18 -- are being released after serving the minimum eight years for the brutal killing of James Bulger.

The crime was described by the trial judge as "unparalleled evil and barbarity," and the boys were given an indefinite sentence.

Britain's National Parole Board based its decision primarily on whether the boys -- Jon Venables and Robert Thompson -- presented a risk to the public.

The board stated that Venables and Thompson would be on probation for the rest of their lives, and given new identities and new passports.

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


The result of parole hearings for Venables and Thompson was made public on Friday by Home Secretary David Blunkett in a House of Commons written answer.

He said the conditions of the two killers' release meant that either of them could be recalled to custody at any time during the rest of their lives if there was "any evidence that they present a risk to the public."

James's parents, Denise Fergus and Ralph Bulger, have campaigned against the pair being released.

Fergus said she was "disgusted with the government and the Parole Board."

"The murderers have walked away with a life of luxury, have been bought homes, given a bank account and 24-hour protection," she said.

"Thompson and Venables may think they have got off lightly and can hide. But I know different. I know no matter where they go, someone out there is waiting," she added.

James' father, who last year threatened to find the teenagers and exact revenge, said in a statement from his lawyers that he felt "angry, frustrated and completely let down by the system."

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The nature of the murder shocked the nation.

Venables and Thompson were 10 years old when a surveillance video captured the boys luring the two-year-old victim from his mother at a Liverpool shopping mall.

The boys then took Bulger across town, tried to drown him and beat him with rocks, bricks and an iron rod on a railway line. The boys left the boy's body on the tracks to be cut in half by an oncoming train.

CNN's Richard Quest: Family said to be devastated by the result
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Venables' solicitor Simon Creighton: Parole board applies very strict test
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Last October the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, effectively ended the boys' tariff -- the minimum period they must spend in custody.

He ruled that it would not benefit them to spend time in what he dubbed the "corrosive atmosphere" of a young offenders' institution.

Once they reached their 19th birthdays, in August this year, Venables and Thompson would have to move from local authority secure units in which they have spent the last eight years and four months, and into young offenders' institutions.

CNN Access - Interview with killer's solicitor  

Once free, the pair will be under an open-ended High Court injunction protecting their anonymity and location.

Family Division President Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said the two had to be protected due to a "real possibility of serious physical harm and possible death from vengeful members of the public or from the Bulger family."

Parents' fury at Bulger decision  

Reformers welcome killers' release  

They will also be "on licence" for life and will be in constant touch with probation officers who will ensure they are adjusting to life outside and remaining mentally stable.

The Parole Board hearings for each of them were held earlier this week.

The panel -- comprising a judge, psychiatrist and independent member -- considered whether it is "no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the offender continues to be detained."

It heard representations from the killers' solicitors and was given psychiatric and other reports together with up-to-date reports from doctors and criminologists.

They also reviewed the killers' school records and considered any further offending that may have taken place during their detention.

• Parole Board

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