A Parole Board decision on whether one of James Bulger’s killers can be freed from jail has been delayed in order to gather more psychiatric reports.
Two-year-old James was tortured and killed by the man formerly known as Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – who were both aged 10 – after they snatched him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.
Thompson and Venables were jailed for life but released on licence with new identities in 2001.
Venables, 36, was sent back to prison in 2010 and 2017 for possessing indecent images of children.
He is currently serving a 40-month sentence, passing the halfway mark in October.
In April, the Parole Board confirmed a review of his case had been referred and it would determine whether a hearing needed to take place to decide if he should be released.
The case has been deferred until August while the board awaits the findings of more psychiatric reports, after which time it will be decided whether there will be a hearing, the PA news agency understands.
There is a suspected monthly backlog of more than 1,000 cases waiting to be heard by the board due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Efforts have been made to conduct remote hearings or decide cases “on paper” by considering documents where possible and appropriate.
But the board is reluctant to determine certain cases – such as those involving murderers, violent and sex offenders and terrorists – without a face-to-face hearing so they are likely to be delayed.
If there is no doubt that Venables should remain in jail, the case will be decided on paper.
But if there is any uncertainty, a hearing will need to take place to consider the risk he presents to the public and whether he can be released, PA understands.
In August, the murdered child’s mother Denise Fergus urged the board to deny Venables early release and “finally admit this man is a threat and danger to society”, claiming he had shown “no remorse or any signs of being rehabilitated”.
A Parole Board spokesman said public safety was the “number one priority” and the panel would “carefully look at a range of evidence, including details of the original case, and any evidence of behaviour change”.