The Speaker
Friday, 12 April 2024 – 14:52

James Bulger: Dad loses bid to disclose info of son’s murderer

The abduction and murder of James Bulger was a hard-hitting event in the UK.

Where two pre-teen boys, supposedly the personification of innocence and incompetent of evil, were proven capable of horrific torture.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson shook the nation and world to fear for their own children after becoming the youngest murderers in the 20th century.

The then 10-year-olds soon became examples of everything that had gone wrong in Britain, a breed of violent children.

Since then we have seen Jon Venables in and out of prison, mainly for charges relating to indecent images of children, which has amplified tensions about whether he should still be entitled lifelong anonymity.

James Bulger’s father, Ralph Bulger, and his uncle Jimmy have long campaigned to have the changed identity of Venables revealed.

He spoke out in February 2018 after Venables received 40 months imprisonment for possessing more than 1,000 indecent images of children: “40 months is a joke. It’s an insult to the family.”

“We’ve just got to watch this sexual deviant. We know what he’s capable of. He’s just waiting for another victim”, he added.

However, on March 4, 2019, James’ dad failed in his bid to disclose to the public information about his son’s killer as the judge described it as a “wholly exceptional case”.

Sir Andrew McFarlane ruled despite it being argued that information about Venables was “common knowledge” online, that even the most notorious of killers have the right to be free from retribution.

He said: “There is a strong possibility, if not a probability, that if his identity were known he would be pursued resulting in grave and possibly fatal consequences.

“My decision is in no way a reflection on the applicants themselves, for whom there is a profoundest sympathy. The reality is that the case for varying the injunction has simply not been made”, he added.

With the decision being much to the disappointment of the Bulgers, Robin Makin, their solicitor-advocate, spoke outside of the High Court after the ruling suggesting the courts were protecting Venables at the expense of others.

“The authorities seem to be hell-bent on protecting Venables”, he said, “and this has been the primary driving force behind Ralph and Jimmy’s application”.

And when asked on seeking an appeal on the decision, he said: “We are going to have to see. You have to pay a large court fee to do it. It is an uphill struggle.”

See below: Timeline of Venables’ offending following the murder.


Jon Venables: Timeline of offending following the murder of James.


February 12: James Bulger is taken from the Strand shopping centre in Merseyside.

February 18: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both aged 10, are arrested and charged with murder – making them the youngest murder defendants in the 20th century.

February 22: Both the accused arrive at Bootle’s South Sefton Magistrates’ Court, only to be referred to as Child A and Child B.

November 24: Following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court, the now 11-year-olds are given life-imprisonment for juveniles which is called being detained at ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’.



June: A petition signed by 278,300 ensuring James’ killers should never be released is given to Home Secretary Michael Howard.

July: Venables’ and Thompson’s tariff sentence is increased by the Home Secretary to 15 years.



June: Law Lords rule by a majority that Mr Howard acted illegally in raising the boys’ tariff.



March: Thompson and Venables not given fair trials and sentencing by an impartial and independent tribunal, according to the European Commission on Human Rights.

December: The European Court of Human Rights also states the schoolboys did not receive a fair trial.



October: Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf reinstates the previous tariff set by the trial judge of eight years – enabling them for release.



January: High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss grants James’ murderers’ lifelong anonymity, a highly contested order.

June: No longer schoolboys, Venables are Thompson are released under new identities.



September: The Probation Service formally warns Venables about breaching conditions of his licence after being arrested on suspicion of affray.

Later this year he is cautioned after being found with cocaine, however, the public is not made aware until two years later.



March 2: The Ministry of Justice says Venables is returned to prison for breaching his terms of release. Chaotic media speculation starts.

June: After lifting court reporting restrictions it is reported an Old Bailey judge charged Venables with the downloading and distribution of child pornography.

July 23: Mother of James criticises the length of sentence after Venables is jailed for two years when pleading guilty.

July 30: Due to “compelling evidence” of a threat to Venables’ life a judge rules his new identity must be kept as a secret.



July 4: Sources reveal Venables has been given parole.



November: After being caught with child pornography Venables is recalled to prison.



January 5: He is charged for his possession of indecent child images and would stand trial at an as-yet-unnamed court, the CPS announces.

February 7: After admitting possessing more than 1,000 indecent child images, Venables is jailed for 40 months at the Old Bailey. 392 of the images he possessed are in category A and was also found to have a ‘paedophile manual’.



March 4: James’ father, Ralph Bulger, loses bid to overturn Venables’ lifelong anonymity after the president of the high court’s family division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, ruled the injunction should be maintained, despite it being argued information of Venables was “common knowledge”.

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