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Bulger injunction breach investigated

James Bulger
James was murdered eight years ago  

LONDON, England -- Senior British lawyers are investigating whether a newspaper has broken strict orders banning details that could identify the two killers of toddler James Bulger.

The two teenagers were granted parole this week with an open-ended High Court injunction banning publication of their new identities or where they are living.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, now both aged 18, were convicted of killing the two-year-old toddler eight years ago.

Guidelines restricting media coverage of the pair were imposed by the High Court to protect them from revenge attacks.

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The injunction prevents the publication of any information that is likely to lead to the identification of Venables or Thompson, or any information likely to lead to the identification of their past, present or future whereabouts.

However, the Attorney General was on Saturday investigating reports that the regional Manchester Evening News published details relating to the whereabouts of Venables and Thompson.

"The attention of the Attorney General has been drawn to an article in (Friday's) Manchester Evening News which appears to be in breach of the injunction granted by the High Court on January 8 2001, as it contains information which might lead to the identification of the present whereabouts of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson," a statement from the Home Office said.

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 Attorney General is considering as a matter of urgency whether it would be appropriate to issue proceedings for contempt in light of this."

The killing of James Bulger outraged Britain. Initially there was anger at his brutal death -- he was abducted from a shopping centre, tortured and left on a railway track where a train ran over his body -- and then shock once the killers were found to be children themselves.

In a written statement to Parliament on Friday, Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "No public interest would be served by pursuing the perpetrators now that the parole board has decided that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that [Venables and Thompson] be confined."

For the rest of their lives, Venables and Thompson "are liable to be recalled to custody at any time if there is any evidence that they present a risk to the public," Blunkett wrote.

James' mother Denise 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, Ralph, 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."

Family Division President Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said Venables and Thompson 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".

News of the publication of details, which were also carried on the paper's Web site, drew an astonished reaction from legal experts and MPs.

Any newspaper found to have breached the injunction could face an unlimited fine or the imprisonment of their editor under the Contempt of Court Act.

The Manchester Evening News denied breaching the injunction.

"We would never knowingly breach and injunction and have been in contact with the Attorney General's office," a spokesman for the paper told the UK's Press Association news agency.

• Parole Board

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