Jon Venables, one of the two individuals convicted in the notorious 1993 murder of toddler James Bulger, is set to make a new bid for parole in a two-day hearing scheduled for November 14. Venables, along with Robert Thompson, became the youngest individuals to stand trial for murder in the UK when, at age 10, they were found guilty of killing two-year-old Bulger in a case that continues to evoke potent public emotions even 30 years later.
Since their release in 2001, Thompson has managed to stay out of custody, whereas Venables, now 41, has faced repeated imprisonments, with his latest stint beginning in 2017 after being found guilty for the second time of possessing child abuse images, including highly distressing content involving male toddlers.
The upcoming parole hearing will take place privately, a decision that stands despite calls for more transparency in the parole board process. The board, comprising a three-person panel, will consider a variety of evidence, including testimonies from prison and probation officials, and from Venables himself, to determine whether he still poses a significant threat to the public. If deemed low-risk, Venables could potentially be released promptly, although Justice Secretary Alex Chalk retains the right to request a review of the panel’s decision.
The victim’s parents, Denise Fergus and Ralph Bulger, vehemently oppose Venables’ potential release, with Fergus articulating the enduring pain in a recent edition of her memoir, and Ralph Bulger expressing a daily dread regarding Venables’ possible release, labeling him a “real danger”.
Legal representatives for the Bulger family criticize the Ministry of Justice for purportedly failing to adequately address their concerns. The Parole Board insists that their decision will hinge strictly on evaluating the potential risk Venables might pose to the community, emphasizing their commitment to ensuring public safety as their utmost priority. They highlighted the exhaustive examination of evidence and careful deliberation that forms the cornerstone of their parole review process.