The criminals including child killers given lifelong anonymity by the courts

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General view of the High Court on the Strand, London.
The UK High Court has granted lifelong anonymity to only a handful of offenders. (PA)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series

On this day in 2001, the killers of toddler James Bulger were granted anonymity for life.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 years old when they murdered the two-year-old on Merseyside in 1993, in a case that shocked the nation.

On 8 January 2001, 21 years ago, the High Court ruled that Venables and Thompson should be given lifelong anonymity.

The decision was made to protect the pair from revenge attacks.

Venables and Thompson are among only a handful of British criminals to be granted anonymity for life by the UK courts.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

The Bulger killer could receive another new identity. (Channel 4)
Robert Thompson, left, and Jon Venables, right, murdered toddler James Bulger in 1993. (PA)

Venables and Thompson were granted lifelong anonymity in January 2001, and released on lifelong licence with new identities later that year.

Then home secretary David Blunkett said: "The injunction was granted because there was a real and strong possibility that their lives would be at risk if their identities became known."

In 2010, Venables was sentenced to two years in prison after he was convicted of downloading and distributing child pornography. He was released in 2013.

In 2018, Venables was once more convicted or possession of child pornography, and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison, where he remains.

In 2019, James Bulger’s father Ralph lost a legal challenge to lift Venables’ lifelong anonymity

Rejecting the request, Judge Sir Andrew McFarlane said: "There is a strong possibility, if not a probability, that if his identity were known he would be pursued resulting in grave and possibly fatal consequences.”

A number of people have been given suspended prison sentences for contempt of court for publishing claims or photos on social media relating to the alleged identities or whereabouts of Venables and Thompson as adults.

Angela Wrightson murder

The teenage killers of Angela Wrightson, pictured, were granted lifelong anonymity last year. (Cleveland Police)
The teenage killers of Angela Wrightson, pictured, were granted lifelong anonymity last year. (Cleveland Police)

In February 2021, two teenage girls who murdered 39-year-old Angela Wrightson were granted lifelong anonymity by the High Court.

The killers, known only as D and F, were just 13 and 14 when they tortured and murdered Ms Wrighton, a vulnerable alcoholic, in her home in Hartlepool in December 2014.

They subjected her to a seven-hour attack using household objects, posting an image of the attack on Snapchat.

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They were both convicted of murder following a trial in 2016 - their first trial a year earlier was suspended after information about the pair was circulated on social media.

The teenage girls were each sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 15 years.

Granting them lifelong anonymity last year, Mrs Justice Tipples said revealing the girls’ identities “is likely to cause each of them serious harm”.

Edlington brothers

A section of the area where two boys were attacked by two other boys is seen in Edlington, northern England September 4, 2009. Two young brothers pleaded guilty on Thursday to causing grievous bodily harm with intent over a
A section of the area where two brothers attacked two other boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire, in 2009. (Reuters)

In December 2016, a pair of brothers who tortured two other children in Edlington, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, were granted lifelong anonymity.

The brothers were 10 and 11 when they carried out their attack on two boys aged 9 and 11 in 2009.

They were sentenced to five years’ detention in 2010 after admitting causing grievous bodily harm.

They hit their victims with bricks, made them strip and eat nettles, and forced them into performing a sex act. Part of the attack was filmed on a mobile phone. 

The brothers have new identities and the High Court granted them anonymity on the grounds there would be “at serious risk of attack” if those identities were known.

Maxine Carr

Cambridgeshire police handout photo of Maxine Carr, issued December 17 2003. A decision on the case of Soham defendant Maxine Carr is likely to be made in the next few days, it emerged tonight, Wednesday January 11, 2004. But there was no confirmation of a report that the ruling will be made tomorrow. The ex-girlfriend of killer Ian Huntley has been put forward for early release by the governor of Holloway Prison in north London. *12/02/04: Maxine Carr, whose application for early release from jail was rejected, by prisons chief Martin Narey, a Prison Service spokesman said. The ex-girlfriend of Soham killer Ian Huntley had been put forward for a Home Office electronic tagging scheme by the governor of Holloway Prison in north London.  See PA story PRISONS Carr.  PA Photo/Cambridgeshire police.  16/05/04:  A decision on the case of Soham defendant Maxine Carr is likely to be made in the next few days, it emerged tonight, Wednesday January 11, 2004. But there was no confirmation of a report that the ruling will be made tomorrow. The ex-girlfriend of killer Ian Huntley has been put forward for early release by the governor of Holloway Prison in north London. A 33-year-old man is due in court tomorrow charged with the theft of papers detailing Maxine Carr's release from a Home Office civil servant's car. Unemployed Darren Jacobs, of no fixed abode, will remain in custody at a north London police station until his appearance before Highbury magistrates. See PA story COURTS Carr.  PA Photo: Cambridgeshire Police/Handout
Maxine Carr, the former girlfriend of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, has been granted lifelong anonymity. (PA)

Maxine Carr, the girlfriend of Soham murderer Ian Huntley, who killed 10-year-old schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in August 2002, was granted lifelong anonymity in 2005.

Carr had provided Huntley with a false alibi and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for perverting the course of justice.

She was released from prison in May 2004 and was given a new identity and a new home in an undisclosed location.

Mary Bell

A picture of Mary Bell at the age of 11. She was ordered to be detained indefinitely for the manslaughter of two boys aged four and three. Exact date unknown.
Mary Bell, pictured at the age of 11, killed two young boys in 1968. (PA)

Mary Bell was convicted in December 1968 of killing two boys, aged three and four, in Scotswood, Newcastle upon Tyne.

She strangled Martin Brown, four, and Brian Howe, three. She carried out the first killing when she was 10 years old. 

When she was 11, Bell was cleared of murder but convicted of the manslaughter of both boys on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She was released on licence in 1980, aged 23.

Bell was granted a lifelong anonymity order by the courts, which was extended in 2003 to protect the identify of her daughter, who was born four years after her release.

The anonymity order was later extended to include Bell’s granddaughter, who was born in 2009.

RXG

In July 2019, the High Court granted lifelong anonymity to a teenager found guilty of plotting to murder police in Australia on Anzac Day.

The boy, from Blackburn, who can only be identified as RXG, sent encrypted messages inciting an Australian to carry out attacks in 2015. He was 14 years old at the time, Britain's then-youngest terrorist.

Later that year, he was jailed for life after admitting inciting terrorism overseas.

The Parole Board ruled in January 2021 that he could be freed from jail.

Watch: Investigation launched after James Bulger killer Jon Venables's new identity revealed

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