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Pressure grows on UK government to reveal reason Bulger killer has returned to jail


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It is not known whether Jon Venables

committed another crime or breached the terms of his release. James Bulger

was abducted from Bootle and battered to death on a railway line in 1993


Jack Straw, the UK Justice Secretary, was under pressure last night to lift the veil of secrecy over the decision to return one of James Bulger’s killers to custody for breaking the terms of his parole.


Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, made clear yesterday that the public had a right to be told the reason why Jon Venables had been sent to prison. Ministry of Justice officials have refused to say whether Venables has committed another crime or simply breached the terms of his release. Mr Straw insisted that it was not in the public interest to disclose the reason for the recall, but he was contradicted by Mr Johnson, who said: “I believe the public do have a right to know and I believe they will know all the facts in due course. But I must in no way prejudice the future criminal justice proceedings.”


His comment was later clarified by the Ministry of Justice, which insisted that Mr Johnson had been referring to a review by the Parole Board of the decision to recall Venables.


A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary was talking in general terms about criminal justice proceedings. He is referring to forthcoming proceedings by the Parole Board.”


Venables, 27, was recalled to custody last week after breaching the terms of his release. It is the first time he has been in a prison. The murderer, who was freed under a new identity in 2001, was ten years old when he and Robert Thompson abducted and battered James Bulger, 2, to death on Merseyside. Both were given life sentences but released on licence after serving eight years in secure children’s homes. None of their custody was spent in a jail.


James’s mother, Denise Fergus, and other members of the family were told of the recall on Tuesday, but were not given the reasons for it. In her first public reaction to his return to custody, Ms Fergus said on Twitter: “Is this my son’s justice?”


A spokesman for Ms Fergus said: “She believes she and the public have a right to know what Venables has done and what is to be done with him now he is an adult offender.”


Former Detective Superintendent Albert Kirby, who headed the Bulger investigation, also called for the secrecy surrounding the recall to be lifted. He said: “It would help to clarify and put this to rest once and for all if the public did have some indication of what it is he has done. Not where he is, or details like that, but the reason why his probation has been revoked and he is back inside.”


Mr Straw said: “I know there’s an intense public interest in why he has been recalled. I would like to give that information, but I’m sorry that for good reasons I can’t and that’s in the public interest.”


If Venables has been taken to prison for allegedly committing a crime, any decision on whether to prosecute would be taken by the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS said it would consider the evidence and whether it was in the public interest to prosecute. A spokeswoman added that any prosecution would be in Venables’s new name and identity.



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