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Brothers who tortured young boys granted lifelong anonymity

Journalists have been barred from revealing the names of two brothers convicted of a "sadistic" attack on two boys when aged 10 and 11.

A senior judge on Friday granted indefinite anonymity to the brothers - who were given custodial terms after admitting causing grievous bodily harm following the attack in Edlington, South Yorkshire, in 2009 - at a High Court hearing in London.

Sir Geoffrey Vos - who heard that the brothers have new identities, are no longer in custody and are now both in their late teens - said he was satisfied that the anonymity order was in the public interest.

He said neither the brothers' original names nor their new identities could be revealed.

A barrister representing the siblings had asked the judge to grant anonymity.

Phillippa Kaufmann QC was instructed by staff from the Official Solicitor's office, which helps vulnerable people involved in court cases.

She said evidence showed that there was a "real possibility" that the brothers would be attacked by vigilantes if their names became known.

The application had been made as the younger brother approached his 18th birthday.

It was not formally opposed by any media organisation - although a reporter covering the hearing argued that journalists should be allowed to reveal the brothers' original names.

Another judge had already granted the pair anonymity until they were 18.

The brothers' attack on the two boys, who were nine and 11, drew comparisons with the murder of two-year-old James Bulger in 1993.

Prosecutors said the brothers had lured their victims to a secluded spot in Edlington, near Doncaster, and subjected them to 90 minutes of violence and sexual humiliation.

The boys had been throttled, hit with bricks, made to eat nettles, stripped and forced to sexually abuse each other, a judge at Sheffield Crown Court was told.

Parts of the attack were recorded on a mobile phone.

Mr Justice Keith, who oversaw the criminal proceedings, said the brothers should serve indeterminate periods in custody of at least five years.

He told the pair when passing sentence: ''The fact is this was prolonged, sadistic violence for no reason other than that you got a real kick out of hurting and humiliating them.''

Ms Kaufmann told Sir Geoffrey that the order she wanted was "truly exceptional".

She said four people had previously been made the subject of such indefinite anonymity injunctions: Mary Bell, who was found guilty of killing two boys at a hearing in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1968; Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who were convicted of killing Jamie Bulger in Liverpool; and Maxine Carr who was convicted of perverting the course of justice when her boyfriend Ian Huntley was found guilty of murdering Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham in 2002 .

And she said the judge had to balance competing human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

She said the brothers' right to life, their right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and their right to respect for private and family life had to be weighed against the right to free expression.

Ms Kaufmann said the Edlington attack had led to the brothers being vilified and given "iconic" status.

"They didn't kill but they have been treated as if they did," she told the judge.

"They face the real possibility of being physically assaulted by vigilante groups."

She said there was a level of anger and animosity which was "visceral".

Ms Kaufmann added: "At the very, very least they will suffer very, very substantial harassment."

She said the brothers had suffered a "most abusive and neglectful childhood".

A report had shown that social workers missed opportunities to help them.

Lawyers representing the boys were funded through legal aid, the judge heard.

No media organisation was represented by lawyers.

A reporter covering the hearing argued that journalists should be allowed to reveal the brothers' real names - but not their new identities.

He said their real names had emerged at court hearings during criminal proceedings and people living in the Edlington area would already know them. He said a threat must already exist and publishing their real names would not add to the threat.

He added that lawmakers intended that juvenile defendants should lose their anonymity when they reached the age of 18.

Ms Kaufmann said revealing the brothers' real names might enable people to work out their new identities.

Sir Geoffrey said he would publish the reasons for his decision in the near future.

He told the court: "I have to apply the law which includes their rights as well as the rights of their victims."

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