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Jon Venables: A timeline of offending by James Bulger’s child killer

Child pornography, drugs and fighting – here is a timeline of events following the murder of James Bulger and the conviction of his schoolboy killers.

Jon Venables has repeatedly offended since he was convicted in 1993 of the horrific murder of toddler James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside.

As well as the brutal killing carried out alongside Robert Thompson when both were aged just 10, he has faced further police probes for affray, drug possession and a previous child pornography offence to that for which he was jailed on Wednesday.

Here is a timeline of events following the murder of James Bulger and the conviction of his schoolboy killers:

1993

  •  February 12: Two-year-old James Bulger is snatched during a shopping trip to the Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside.
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CCTV showing James Bulger being led away in the New Strand shopping centre in the Bootle area of Liverpool in 1993 (PA)
  • 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.
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A policeman stands guard at the entrance of the site where the body of two-year-old James Bulger was found on a railway embankment in Liverpool in 1993 (PA)
  • February 18: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both 10, are arrested and later charged.
  • 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.
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A large police contingent moves along an angry crowd which had gathered at South Sefton Magistrates Court where Venables and Thompson appeared in 1993 charged with the murder of James Bulger (John Giles/PA)
  • November 24: The pair, now both 11, are convicted of James’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.
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An artist’s impression of Venables and Thompson’s trial at Preston Crown Court in 1993 (PA)

1994

  •  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.

1997

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

1999

  • 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.

2000

  • 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.
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James Bulger's mother, Denise Fergus, arrives with her husband Stuart (left) at the Law Courts, in London, to hear the Lord Chief Justice’s ruling on the minimum sentences to be served by Thompson and Venables in October 2000, when they were aged 18 (Peter Jordan/PA)

2001

  • January: The 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: They are freed under new identities.

2008

  • September: Venables is arrested on suspicion of affray after he and another man become involved in a drunken street fight. The Probation Service formally warns him 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 remains unaware of both offences until 2010.

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: An Old Bailey judge lifts media restrictions, allowing it to be reported that Venables has been charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.
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Denise Fergus leaves the Old Bailey, in central London in July 2010, following Jon Venables’s appearance by videolink to enter pleas to charges of downloading and distributing indecent images of children (PA)
  • July 23: Venables is jailed for two years after pleading guilty. James’s mother 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.

2013

  • April 26: Two users of social media who breached the injunction banning the revelation of the new identities of Venables and Thompson receive were given suspended jail sentences.
  • July 4: Sources reveal Venables has been granted parole.
  • September 3: James’s parents speak out after Venables is released.

2015

  • November 24: Former prison officer Scott Chapman, 44, of Corby, Northamptonshire, is jailed  for two years and four months for selling stories to tabloid newspapers about Venables. While working at HMP Woodhill, Chapman was paid more than £40,000 for 45 stories.

2017

  • November: Venables is recalled to prison after being caught with child pornography.

2018

  • January 5: The CPS announces  that Venables has been charged over the indecent images of children and would stand trial at an as-yet unnamed court.
  • February 7: Venables is jailed for 40 months at the Old Bailey in London, after admitting possessing more than 1,000 indecent images of children –  392 in the most serious category A – and having a paedophile manual.

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