Jon Venables’ new identity could finally be revealed as James Bulger’s father challenges court order giving killer lifelong anonymity

  • James’s father is trying to overturn a court order giving Venables anonymity
  • The man formerly known has Venables has re-offended since his release
  • England’s most senior family court judge will hear the case today

The father of murdered toddler James Bulger is bringing a High Court case in a bid to remove Jon Venables’ right to anonymity. Pictured: Venables after the murder

The father of murdered toddler James Bulger are due to challenge a court order which allows killer Jon Venables to live under a cloak of anonymity.

Ralph Bulger and his lawyers is apply to vary or overturn an injunction which ‘prevents identification of the person previously known as Jon Venables’.

A hearing will be held at the High Court in London today before the most senior family judge in England and Wales, Sir James Munby, rules on the issue.

Venables has been living anonymously since his release from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture and murder of two-year-old James 25 years ago.

James’s father Ralph has previously called for Venables to be stripped of his anonymity.

Mr Bulger said: ‘Secret justice is no justice at all. He should be identified in court like every other criminal.

‘To do otherwise is to send a terrible message that the worse the crime you commit, the more you will be protected.’ 

Two-year-old James Bulger was abducted and murdered in Merseyside in February 1993

James’s mother Denise has previously called for an inquiry into why Venables has received what she believes is soft treatment from the authorities. But she is not involved in today’s application.

She said of the case: ‘I understand the motivation for the application, but my concern is that if Venables were known by his own name, it could lead to vigilante action and innocent people being hurt. Beyond that, I have no further comment to make.’ 

James was murdered by 10-year-olds Venables and Robert Thompson after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.

Robert Thompson was also locked up over James’ killing

Both Venables and Thompson were later granted lifelong anonymity by a High Court judge. Following release they have lived under new identities.

But Venables has since been convicted and sent back to jail over indecent images of children.

In February, he was jailed for three years and four months after admitting surfing the dark web for extreme child abuse images and possessing a ‘sickening’ paedophile manual.

He was charged after police found more than 1,000 indecent images on his computer.

It was the second time he had been caught with such images and when he was arrested he told police he was plagued by ‘stupid urges’.

James’s mother, Denise, and father, Ralph, attended the Old Bailey when Venables was sentenced in February.

Timeline: James Bulger’s murder and the conviction of his killers


  • February 12: Two-year-old James Bulger is snatched during a shopping trip to the Strand shopping centre, in Bootle, Merseyside.
  • February 14: The toddler’s battered body is found by children playing on a freight railway line 200 yards from Walton Lane police station, Liverpool, and more than two miles from the Strand shopping centre.
  • February 18: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10-year-olds, are arrested in connection with the murder of James, and later charged. They are the youngest to be charged with murder in the 20th century.
  • February 22: There are violent scenes outside South Sefton Magistrates’ Court in Bootle, when the two primary school pupils, then known as Child A and Child B, make their first appearance.
  • November 24: Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, now both aged 11, are convicted of James Bulger’s murder following a 17-day trial at Preston Crown Court. They are ordered to be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the normal substitute sentence for life imprisonment when the offender is a juvenile.


  • July: The eight year sentence tariff set by the trial judge, which has already been increased to 10 years by Lord Chief Justice Lord Taylor of Gosforth, is increased again to 15 years by the Home Secretary Michael Howard.


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


  • March: The European Commission on Human Rights finds that Thompson and Venables were denied a fair trial and fair sentencing by an impartial and independent tribunal.


  • March: Home Secretary Jack Straw says he will not set a date for Thompson and Venables’ release.
  • October: Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf reinstates the trial judge’s original tariff, paving the way for their release.


  • January: James Bulger’s killers win an unprecedented court order from High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss which grants them anonymity for the rest of their lives.
  • June: Thompson and Venables are freed under new identities.


  • September: Venables is arrested on suspicion of affray after he and another man become involved in a drunken street fight. He is given a formal warning by the Probation Service about breaching the good behaviour expected of him as a condition of his licence.
  • Later the same year he is cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug, which was said to be for personal use. The public remained unaware of both offences until 2010.


  • March 2: Venables is returned to prison after breaching the terms of his release, the Ministry of Justice says. It kick-starts frenzied media speculation over the nature of the alleged breach.
  • April 16: Prosecutors handed a police file over the latest allegations.
  • June 21: A judge at the Old Bailey lifts media restrictions, allowing it to be reported that Venables has been charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.
  • July 23: Venables pleads guilty to the charges. He is sentenced to two years in prison. James Bulger’s mother Denise Fergus attacks the length of sentence as ‘simply not enough’.
  • July 30: A judge rules Venables’ new identity must be kept secret because of the ‘compelling evidence’ of a threat to his safety, saying ‘unpopular’ defendants had as much right to protection from retribution as anyone else.


  • July 4: Venables is granted parole.


  • Venables is in prison again after allegedly being caught with indecent images of children.  


  • He admits child pornography charges and is jailed for 40 months.

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