Bulger killers' ruling set 'dangerous precedent'

Sunday, February 04, 2001
A court ruling granting the killers of James Bulger anonymity set a "very dangerous" precedent, according to UK Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Wakeham.

Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, both 18, will be protected by the ruling when they are finally released.

Family Division President Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss said last month she believed their lives would be at risk if the media revealed their new identities.

The decision sparked fury and dismay from the family of two-year-old James who was killed by the pair after they abducted him from a Merseyside shopping centre. Most of the media had opposed the ban and were similarly critical of decision.

Lord Wakeham called for the ruling to be regularly reviewed, arguing it was the start of a "very, very slippery slope".

He said: "I think I can see why the judge reached that conclusion.

"But it is a very dangerous judgement and I hope it will be reviewed from time to time because I think restrictions on the press of that sort are a very, very slippery slope".

Lord Wakeham stressed the order was imposed because the pair "were physically likely to be in danger".

"They are not entitled to privacy for privacy's sake," he said.

His comments follow proceedings which could decide the release date for Thompson and Venables, which were held in private on Thursday. The pair have reportedly agreed never to return to Merseyside or to see each other again as part of the conditions of their release.

Thompson and Venables were 10 when they abducted James from the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993. In a murder that shocked the nation, the pair dragged the toddler to a nearby railway line where they tortured him and left him for dead.