James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables’ bid for freedom could be made public with him appearing on video link with a blurred face and distorted voice.
The Parole Board is considering holding his parole hearing in public after receiving an anonymous application, the Sun reported.
The hearing was not set to be heard in public, despite requests for Venables to be made to answer questions on a live video screen.
The child murderer’s case will be heard on November 14 and 15, and as parole decisions are made within 14 days there are fears he could walk free in time for Christmas.
Venables, now 40, was 10 years old when he and Robert Thompson, now 39, snatched the two-year-old James from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were found guilty of killing James Bulger (pictured) in November 1993 and were sentenced to custody until they reached 18
Jon Venables, 40, (pictured in 1993) was aged ten when he and Robert Thompson, now 39, snatched the toddler from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.
The pair tortured and killed the toddler before dumping his mutilated body by a railway line two-and-a-half miles away in Liverpool.
Both men were released in 2001 on licence for life but Venables has been recalled to prison twice, in 2010 and 2017, having been found to be in possession of indecent images of children.
On Wednesday it emerged that a two-day hearing will be held on November 14 and 15 to determine whether Venables can be freed again.
And a source close to James’ parents say they want the hearing to be ‘transparent’.
‘They fear a whitewash if it’s behind closed doors and feel the public has the right to know what is going on,’ they told the Sun.
The three-person parole panel will cross-examine Venables and will take evidence from a number of prison sources, including officers who have day-to-day contact with him, his probation officer and psychiatrists.
He is likely to appear on a video link with a blurred face and distorted voice.
Denise Fergus, who was left ‘shellshocked’ by the prospect of Venables being released by Christmas, described the killer as ‘one of the biggest dangers to our country’.
Issuing a statement on behalf of Mrs Fergus, the James Bulger Memorial Trust said: ‘Denise remains deeply concerned about the potential release of Jon Venables, whom she considers to be one of the biggest dangers to our country.
The pair tortured and killed the two-year-old before dumping his mutilated body by a railway line two-and-a-half miles away in Liverpool. Pictured: Robert Thompson
James (pictured) was brutally tortured and killed by the two ten-year-old boys. The crime made the boys the youngest killers in modern English history
‘She firmly believes that if he is released he will undoubtedly offend again. The thought of him being allowed back into our communities is undeniably alarming.’
The trust also said Mrs Fergus wanted to ‘express her heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has shown their support for her and her family during this difficult time’.
Venables was jailed for 40 months after being recalled to prison but has now served double after being rejected for release at the end of his sentence.
Despite requests for Venables’ hearing to be held in public, it will take place behind closed doors, with a three-person parole panel taking evidence in private from prison officers, probation officers and psychiatrists.
Victim impact statements from James’s mother and father Ralph Bulger, 55, who have both implored the Parole Board to reject Venables’s bid to be released, will also be read.
A source told the Mail yesterday that Mrs Fergus had not been informed of the parole hearing date before it appeared in the media. ‘She’s shellshocked,’ they said.
Previously Mrs Fergus told the Parole Board: ‘If you let him free, you could be ruining the lives of another family like ours. When you look at Venables’s file just remember what he is capable of.
‘He killed my son James, has reoffended time and time again and I have no doubt he would kill another child if he is released.’
Under current rules, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has the power to ask the Parole Board to reconsider its decision if it decides to release Venables.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said the minister was giving the case his ‘close personal attention’.
Victim impact statements from James’s mother (pictured) and father Ralph Bulger, 55, who have both implored the Parole Board to reject Venables’s bid to be released, will also be read
A surveillance camera shows the abduction of two-year-old James Bulger from the Bootle Strand shopping mall on February 12 1993
Tougher measures currently going through Parliament, as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill, would give ministers the power to veto release decisions for the most serious or repeat offenders.
Under the plans, a dangerous, reoffending prisoner like Venables would never be freed.
The Victims and Prisoners Bill will make public safety the sole priority in considering the release of repeat offenders.
Currently, the rights of inmates have more weight when making such decisions.
The Bill follows widespread concern about parole panels being too soft after scandals over black cab rapist John Worboys and double child killer Colin Pitchfork.
It will also reform the role of the chairman of the Parole Board to ensure they focus on strategic leadership and have no influence over individual parole decisions.
What has happened to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson since James Bulger’s murder?
Jon Venables, pictured as a boy, has been given lifelong anonymity by the courts
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were found guilty of killing Bulger in November 1993 and were sentenced to custody until they reached 18.
They were freed in 2001, aged 18, and given new identities to protect them from the risk of vigilante attacks.
They were made the subjects of so-called ‘Mary Bell orders’, lifetime anonymity court injunctions named after Mary Bell, who was found guilty of killing two boys at a hearing in Newcastle in 1968.
Only six people have been made subject of the orders; Venables, Thompson, Bell, Maxine Carr, who was convicted of perverting the course of justice in the Soham murders, and two brothers who, aged ten and 11, tortured two younger boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire in 2009.
At the time of Venables’ first release from prison, a psychiatrist ruled that he did not pose a danger to the public and was extremely unlikely to commit any further offences.
Years later it emerged Venables had been detained in Vardy House – a small eight-bed section of Red Bank secure unit in St Helens on Merseyside – where it’s said he made such good progress he was kept there for eight years, despite it actually being a short-stay remand unit.
Shortly before his release in 2001, when aged 17, Venables was reported to have allegedly had sex with a woman who worked at the Red Bank secure unit where he was being held. The allegations were investigated and a female staff member accused of sexual misconduct was suspended, never to return.
Venables’ release under his new identity went ahead and he is known to have been living independently by March 2002 – some time thereafter beginning a relationship with a woman who had a five-year-old child, although he denies having ever met them.
He was then reported to have had a number of ‘younger girlfriends’ which suggested he was enjoying a delayed adolescence.
As his supervision was apparently reduced, he developed drinking and drugs problems, and he compromised his identity at least twice by telling friends he was a convicted murderer.
In September 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of affray after a drunken brawl and was given a formal warning by the probation service for breaching the good behaviour terms of his licence.
Venables and Robert Thompson were freed eight years after they were first locked up
Later the same year, Venables was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug.
When a probation officer later visited his home in Cheshire to discuss his fears that he could be in danger, he was attempting to destroy the hard drive of his computer.
The hard drive was later examined by police, who discovered that it contained dozens of indecent images of children.
Venables admitted he had posed online as a 35-year-old woman who had abused her eight-year-old daughter, and was returned to prison.
During his latest imprisonment he was given yet another new identity because of the risk posed by a previous security breach. Venables was paroled again in 2013 and took on his fourth new identity.
He was sentenced to 40 months in prison after pleading guilty to having more than 1,000 indecent images of children, in February 2018.