Child killer Jon Venables to face two-day parole hearing

Child killer Jon Venables is to face a two-day parole hearing, which could potentially see him released from prison before the end of the year.

The hearing is scheduled for November 14 and 15, and a decision on whether prisoners can be released is usually made within 14 days.

Venables and Robert Thompson, who were then just 10 years old, tortured and killed two-year-old James Bulger after snatching him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside, in February 1993.

The grave of murdered James Bulger in Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool
The grave of murdered James Bulger in Kirkdale Cemetery in Liverpool (PA)

The two boys were jailed for life but released on licence with new identities in 2001.

Venables was sent back to prison in 2010 and 2017 for possessing indecent images of children, and was given a 40-month sentence.

In 2020, the Parole Board was asked to review his case when he became eligible, but the panel decided he should not be released.

A Parole Board spokesman said: “An oral hearing has been listed for the parole review of Jon Venables and is scheduled to take place in November 2023.

“Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

“A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.

“Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead-up to an oral hearing.

“Evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison, as well as victim personal statements, are then given at the hearing.

“The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing, which often lasts a full day or more.

“Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”

Venables’ case will be heard as measures aimed at strengthening the parole system are going through Parliament as part of the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The Bill will make public protection the top priority in deciding which prisoners are safe for release by codifying the release test in law.

It will require parole boards to include law enforcement members and give ministers greater oversight, including the power to overturn release decisions for the most serious offenders.

It will also reform the role of the chair of the Parole Board to ensure they focus on strategic leadership and have no influence over individual parole decisions.