James Bulger Inquiry

Thank you for contacting me about James Bulger.

The murder of James Bulger was an appalling crime which shocked the nation, and my deepest sympathies remain with his parents for the pain and suffering they have endured.

Because this case has been of such understandable concern, when the man formerly known as Jon Venables was recalled to custody in February 2010, the then Justice Secretary asked Sir David Omand, the former Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to conduct an extensive review of the management of Venables from the time of his release from Red Bank Secure Children’s Home in 2001 until his recall to custody. In July 2010 Venables was convicted of possessing, downloading and sharing indecent images of children, and Sir David’s detailed report was published in November 2010.

The independent Parole Board directed Venables’ re-release on life licence – subject to strict licence conditions in July 2013 after a thorough risk assessment and in accordance with the statutory release test, which is whether it is necessary on the grounds of public protection for the offender to be detained in custody. The Parole Board is legally not allowed to share the reasons behind any of its release decisions, although there is an urgent review currently underway into how to increase its transparency and whether and how it might be possible to challenge those decisions.

Unlike in 2010, Jon Venables’ recent criminal acts were discovered as a direct result of the tight monitoring to which he was subject by the Police and Probation Services. He has also constantly been subject to stricter licence conditions and more scrutiny than most lifers would be at the same stage of their sentence. For that reason, a review of the management of Venables since 2010 would not have the same clear focus.

Venables is now serving a sentence of 40 months’ imprisonment for possessing indecent images of children. Once he has completed the custodial part of that sentence, he will remain in custody until the independent Parole Board determines that his risk is such that he may be re-released on life licence.