James Bulger's mother's relief as killer Jon Venables is denied parole

James Bulger's mother's relief as killer Jon Venables is denied parole

December 14, 2023

Jon Venables’ screams of rage as he is denied parole for being too dangerous as his victim Jamie Bulger’s mother Denise reveals ‘We can finally enjoy Christmas now’

  • The Parole Board today denied Venables his bid to be released from prison 

James Bulger’s mother says she and her family can ‘totally enjoy Christmas’ after Jon Venables was denied freedom – with the child killer reportedly ‘losing the plot’ and ‘screaming and shouting’ as the Parole Board elected to keep him locked up.

Venables, who was one of two boys jailed for the killing of two-year-old James in 1993, had his application rejected after officials said they believed he continued to pose a risk to the public – and ‘went mad’ as the verdict was handed down.

Speaking today, his mother Denise Fergus said she could finally ‘see some light at the end of the tunnel’ after decades of fighting for justice for her son, adding: ‘I was dreading Christmas…but now our family can totally enjoy Christmas.’

Venables, 41, was only ten years old when he and accomplice Robert Thompson snatched James from the New Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, Merseyside in February 1993, torturing the youngster before dumping his body on a railway line.

The killer was originally released from prison in 2001 but has since been returned to prison twice for possessing indecent images of children, most recently in 2017.

James Bulger’s mother Denise Fergus says she sees ‘some light at the end of the tunnel’ after her son’s killer Jon Venables was denied parole

Jon Venables, pictured here in his mugshot, was just 10 years old when he brutally murdered toddler James Bulger in 1993

The murder of James Bulger (pictured above), who was kidnapped from a shopping centre and tortured to death by two 10-year-old boys, shocked the nation

James Bulger’s mother, Denise Welch, alongside Kym Morris, chairwoman of the James Bulger’s Memorial Trust on Good Morning Britain on Thursday 

The Parole Board said it was concerned Venables has ‘continuing issues of sexual preoccupation’ and were ‘not satisfied’ he was safe to be back on the streets. 

A source told The Sun that Venables ‘lost the plot’ when told his bid for freedom had been rejected, adding: ‘He went mad, shouting and screaming.’  

Appearing on TV on Thursday morning, Ms Fergus said the Parole Board’s decision represented ‘justice for James’.

READ MORE: Child killer Jon Venables ‘lost the plot’ and ‘went mad shouting and screaming’ after losing parole bid

‘It’s taken me 30 years to get here. I finally now feel that I have been listened to,’ she told Good Morning Britain.

‘I said in the very beginning if them two weren’t properly punished either one or both of them would go on to reoffend and that’s exactly what’s happened.

‘I’ve had too many sleepless nights over this once again because I know for a fact if he was released…we would end up with another case like James’ and that is something I do not want any other family to go through.

‘This news, that he’s not getting released, is such a relief for me and my family and my close friends.

‘We still can’t really adjust to what we’ve been told because this is the first time I’ve gotten something my way.’

Ms Fergus said the recent months in the run up to Venables’ parole hearing had been an ’emotional rollercoaster’ and ‘one hell of a bumpy road’.

She continued: ‘I’m hoping now I’ll get some peace of mind. I’m hoping this is a bit of justice for James.

‘I don’t feel he (Venables) should ever see the light of day again. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel and I hope it gets brighter and brighter for me.

‘I don’t want James to be remembered as the murdered child, I want him to be remembered as positivity.

‘I was dreading Christmas with this hanging over me but now our family can totally enjoy Christmas.’

Kym Morris, spokeswoman and chairwoman of the James Bulger’s Memorial Trust said following the decision that yesterday was ‘the day Denise has waited for years.’

Ms Morris added: ‘The prospect of him coming out was terrifying as we knew he’d harm again. This is a day we celebrate and we thank the parole board for making the correct decision.’ 

James’ father Ralph and his uncle Jimmy Bulger added in a joint statement they were ‘relieved at the decision’, and that Venables’ continued offending after his release ‘had a traumatic impact on us.’ 

James’ mother Denise Fergus (pictured in 2020) has praised the Parole Board and said it is a ‘day for celebration’

CCTV shows Jon Venables and Robert Thompson leading James Bulger away inside a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside in February 1993

Robert Thompson, pictured here in his mugshot, who murdered James Bulgar with Venables, has not reoffended since his release from prison

It was reported last week that Venables had claimed he was ‘reformed’ and ‘no danger’ to the public in his latest bid for freedom, sparking pleas from James’s family to keep him locked up.

He had been granted a private two-day parole hearing after it was ruled it would ‘harm his mental health’ if it took place in public, but he did not attend to give evidence in person.

Now after two weeks of deliberations, the Parole Board has determined that the child murderer is still too much of a danger to the public to be released.

READ MORE HERE: How Jon Venables will face ‘strictest ever’ release conditions if he wins parole, including a new identity, no internet on his own, spot lie detectors and ban on going near victim’s relatives

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, backed the decision to keep Venables behind bars.

He said: ‘James Bulger’s barbaric murder was a crime that shocked the nation and I welcome the Parole Board’s decision to keep his killer behind bars.

‘Public protection is our number one priority which is why I opposed Jon Venables’ release and this Government is reforming the parole system to introduce a stronger ministerial check on the release of the most dangerous offenders.’

A spokesperson for the Parole Board told MailOnline: ‘We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board refused the release of Jon Venables following an oral hearing.

‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

‘A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.

‘Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing.

‘Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.

‘It is standard for the prisoner and witnesses to be questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Under current legislation he will be eligible for a further review in due course. The date of the next review will be set by the Ministry of Justice.’

It was reported last week that James’ family had written to the Parole Board over suggestions that one of their son’s killers could be released.

A family source said last week: ‘The family has written to the decision makers, saying they believe Venables is a danger to the public and to children, and that he needs to be kept locked up.’ 

The insider went on to say that it should be ‘a cut and dry case’ and that were was no need for extra time to debate if ‘monster’ Venables should be released.

James Bulger’s father Ralph (pictured) said he was ‘relieved at the decision’ to keep Venables behind bars

Denise Fergus has campaigned for decades to keep her son’s killers behind bars – pictured here in February 2001 as it emerged that Venables and Thompson could be released. They were ultimately released in July that year

Venables’ parole bid has already sparked controversy after it emerged that he skipped giving evidence during the two-day hearing to prevent ‘disproportionate emotional stress.’ 

Venables and fellow 10-year-old Robert Thompson horrified Britain when they snatched toddler James from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside. 

The pair kidnapped and tortured James, before leaving his mutilated body by a railway line 30 years ago.

The child killers were convicted of murder in November 1993 and detained indefinitely.

The pair were released aged 18 in 2001 after just eight years and given new identities. Thompson has not reoffended.

Following his released in 2001, Venables was recalled to prison twice, in 2010 and 2017, having been found to be in possession of indecent images of children.

Venables was turned down for parole in 2020 after serving his minimum 40 months.

After his 2001 release he was given a new name – which may happen if he is freed again. Previous conditions placed on Venables included informing his parole officer if he ever got a job and getting their permission before leaving the UK.

He had to regularly see a forensic psychologist and was banned from contacting Robert Thompson or any member of James Bulger’s family.

He also had to ask his parole officer for permission to leave Merseyside, stay overnight in the same house as a child under 16 or spend time with anyone under 12. 

Jon Venables parole hearing: Summary in full 

INTRODUCTION: As required by law, Mr Venables’ case was referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State for Justice to determine whether he could be safely released on parole licence. The Secretary of State did not ask the panel for advice on whether Mr Venables could be transferred to an open prison. 

The panel could only direct release if it was satisfied that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that Mr Venables remained confined in prison. 

The case was due to be considered at an oral hearing on 14 November 2023. The panel members and witnesses attended the prison where Mr Venables is being held. Also in attendance were the legal representatives for the Secretary of State and Mr Venables. 

Ahead of the hearing, permission had been given to allow a solicitor, acting on behalf of two relatives of the victim, to attend the Parole Board headquarters and listen to a live audio transmission of the oral hearing. Mr Venables, through his legal representative, objected to this, with Mr Venables indicating that he did not feel able to give evidence in those circumstances. The panel considered that the arguments in support were the same as those made at the time the application to observe was first considered, and declined to reverse its decision about the observation of the hearing. Mr Venables subsequently informed the panel that he had no issue with the family being involved in the parole process, but he was not comfortable about discussing some aspects of the case with the family representative listening, that he would not therefore give oral evidence to the panel, and he asked the panel to consider the case based solely on the written evidence. 

The panel agreed with this approach, determining that in the absence of oral evidence from Mr Venables, it had sufficient evidence in the written material (the dossier) to make an informed decision about the case. 

Mr Venables had asked the panel to direct his release. The submissions provided on behalf of the Secretary of State opposed release. The panel considered written representations from the Secretary of State’s representative and from Mr Venables’ legal representative prior to making its decision. This was the third review by the Parole Board since Mr Venables’ second recall to prison and he was 41 years old at the time of the review. The earlier reviews had also been concluded with sole reference to the written evidence and these took place in 2018 and 2020, with decisions being made not to direct re-release. 

In reaching its decision, the panel considered the contents of the parole review dossier, prepared by the Secretary of State. This included up-to-date reports from Mr Venables’ probation officer based in the community, professionals assessments, other documents from the prison and probation, and a report from a psychologist commissioned by the prisoner. 

The panel had the benefit of victim personal statements which clearly conveyed the impact of Mr Venables’ crime and the consequences of his offending. The contents were given careful consideration by the panel. 

SENTENCE DETAILS: On 24 November 1993, at the age of eleven, Mr Venables was convicted of murder and ordered to be detained during Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was ten years old when he committed the offence, with another boy of a similar age who attended the same school. The victim was 2 years and 11 months. On 12 February 1993, Mr Venables and the other boy truanted from school, stole from local shops and twice, unsuccessfully, tried to entice toddlers outside shops to come with them. They then turned their attention to the victim, who was not known to them and who was led away. The detail of the murder is well known to the public. The panel also considered evidence relating to a potential sexual element of that crime. 

RISK: In the early part of his sentence Mr Venables engaged with specialist work to help him to fully develop social skills. He was first released on licence in 2002 following a decision by the Parole Board. Concerns arose due to breaches of an Exclusion Zone and possession of drugs. In February 2010, he was recalled to prison when sexual images of children were discovered on his computer. This revealed an area of risk that had not previously been considered and the panel also noted concerns about sexual preoccupation, Mr Venables’ use of the internet and his drug misuse. Mr Venables was subsequently convicted of further offending and received a two year sentence, with the court imposing a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO). 

In August 2013, Mr Venables was re-released. In 2015, he was discovered to have accessed the internet which was in breach of the SOPO in place. He received a police caution for this and a warning from Probation. Concerns again emerged about his behaviour on licence, including breaching licence conditions and clandestinely accessing the internet using multiple devices. His licence was revoked and he was recalled to custody on 17 November 2017 and has remained in prison ever since. 

In February 2018, Mr Venables pleaded guilty to offences of making indecent images by downloading them from the internet, and possession of a paedophile manual which he had also downloaded from the internet. He received a forty month custodial sentence. 

It was later reported that Mr Venables had accepted that he had a long-term sexual interest in children/indecent images of children. He has completed a considerable amount of work in prison to address this area of risk. However, the panel was concerned by continuing issues of sexual preoccupation in this case. The panel was considered that there were future risks of Mr Venables again viewing indecent images of children/child sexual abuse images, and also of Mr Venables progressing to offences where he might have contact with children, and both of these present a risk of causing serious harm to others. It accordingly determined that there would be a risk to others at this time if Mr Venables were to be released. 

There were competing views in the professional reports before the panel, with some support for Mr Venables’ re-release. The probation officer did not recommend release but, as is required, provided a release plan for the panel’s consideration and the panel weighed its proposals against assessed risks. The plan included a requirement to reside as directed, with extensive monitoring of Mr Venables in the community. A substantial number of licence conditions had been proposed, although Mr Venables would not be eligible for polygraph testing. 

The panel noted that there were concerns about how well Mr Venables would be able to work with his probation officer. It concluded that his engagement with his probation officer would be crucial to the success of the release plan. 

DECISION: After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and on licence, and the evidence presented in the dossier, the panel was not satisfied that release at this point would be safe for the protection of the public. It noted the risks as set out above, doubted Mr Venables’ ability to be open and honest with professionals, and concluded that there remained a need for him to address outstanding levels of risk, and to develop his relationship with his probation officer. By law, Mr Venables will be eligible for another parole review in due course.

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