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Man spared jail for Venables tweet

A man who tweeted images purporting to be of James Bulger's killer Jon Venables as an adult has been given a 14-month suspended prison sentence.

The term, suspended for 15 months, was handed down at London's High Court for a flagrant contempt of court on the part of 27-year-old security guard James Baines.

Baines, who is from Liverpool and close to the Bulger family, will also have to pay £3,000 in costs.

He admitted disobeying a January 2001 injunction binding on the whole world which prohibits the publication of any information purporting to identify the appearance, whereabouts, movements or new identities of Venables or Robert Thompson, who were convicted of the two-year-old's murder in November 1993.

It was made on the basis that the pair would face an acute risk of serious physical harm or death upon their release.

The case was referred by Attorney General Dominic Grieve after Baines put images purporting to identify Venables as an adult on his Twitter profile on February 14 this year - the 20th anniversary of the crime.

One image showed Venables in a school photograph as a child while below and alongside were different images of an adult male.

They were accompanied by the tweet: "Its on bbc news about the jon venables pic on twitter saying its been removed eerrm no it hasn't."

The Attorney General said in a statement: " It gives me no pleasure to bring a third case for breaching this injunction and I do so purely in the wider public interest.

"The order has been in place for many years and applies to both media organisations and individuals. It is meant not only to protect Venables and Thompson but also those members of the public who have been incorrectly identified as being either of them."

Baines's counsel, Peter Lownds, said the tweet - posted two days after the actual anniversary of James's death - came at a highly emotional time for the community.

Baines, who attended the same school as cousins of the Bulger family, admitted that he went "far too far".

"He had a very strong emotional reaction to the anniversary. He accepts it is not an excuse for his behaviour but it is offered as some explanation for why he became involved in the very substantial social communication over Twitter and Facebook at about that time.

"H e recognises and accepts that, whilst he is entitled to hold his strong views, he was completely wrong to do what he did on that day and was not entitled to take the law into his own hands."

He said the court had seen a letter from James's father, Ralph, which was relevant to the situation and reflected discussions he had had with Baines.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Tugendhat, said that, after posting the tweet, Baines disregarded those who said he was wrong to do so and poured abuse on them .

He maintained his defiant stance on Twitter and, the following month, said on Facebook that he had complete contempt for the police if they were to take action against him.

He initially denied ownership of the Twitter account and, even after accepting the postings were his, said he had no knowledge of the injunction.

"There was an apology but it was substantially undermined by his failure to be candid with the court."

Lord Thomas said it was an extremely serious case with a number of serious aggravating features.

"He acted in flagrant breach of the Attorney General's injunction, knowing of it, and engaged himself in a determined campaign.

"He knew of the consequences and displayed an attitude to this court, the Attorney General and the police of complete contempt.

"Those who suggested he was in breach of the order were subjected to particularly unpleasant abuse.

"It also appeared that the purpose of his postings was to harm Jon Venables.

"The only conceivable mitigation was his admission two days ago that he had known all along and accepted the Attorney General's case in full."

Suspending the sentence with "very very considerable hesitation", he said the fact that Baines was part of the Bulger family's community could not conceivably excuse his conduct, but might help to explain it.


From Belfast Telegraph