Advertisement

Calls for Government to lay out all the facts of James Bulger murder case

The Government must lay out all the facts of the case of murdered toddler James Bulger in a public inquiry to show there is nothing to hide, ministers have heard.

Six years on from a petition which calls for answers on why two-year-old James’ killer Jon Venables was freed to commit more offences, Labour MPs made renewed calls for a probe.

During a debate on the petition signed by more than 213,000 people, Labour MP Paula Barker said: “If there is nothing to see here, let us have all the facts laid bare.”

The petition calls for questions to be asked about murderer Venables’s time in the prison system, and why experts believed he had been rehabilitated when he was released.

Jon Venables
Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were both 10 when they kidnapped, tortured and murdered two-year-old James in Liverpool in February 1993 (PA)

He and Robert Thompson were both 10 when they kidnapped, tortured and murdered two-year-old James in Liverpool in February 1993.

The Government said it “fully appreciates” the significant concerns raised, but maintained its position that a public inquiry is not necessary.

Speaking in Westminster Hall on Monday, Ms Barker, the MP for Liverpool, Wavertree, said: “I find it staggering to assert by denying a public inquiry that lessons cannot be learned.

“I support a public inquiry, those in power trot out the usual lines, it’s too expensive, time consuming, and resource-intensive, there’s nothing to see here.

“Even after the likes of Hillsborough the penny does not seem to have dropped, that victims might, just might, refrain from calling for such if the system and public sector agencies afforded victims transparency in the first place.

“If there is nothing to see here, let us have all the facts laid bare.”

She added: “To lose a child in such circumstances should never happen, for his family to still be fighting for justice 31 years later should never have to happen, and it is unbelievably cruel.”

Labour former minister Sir George Howarth said the Government’s response on how the transparency of the Parole Board’s decisions could be improved has been “overly defensive and vague”.

The Knowsley MP later added: “I think there should be a public inquiry but if that gets ruled out, there needs to be some alternative way by which these issues can be considered.”

UK Parliament portraits
During a debate on the petition signed by more than 213,000 people, Labour MP Paula Barker called on the Government to lay our the facts and conduct a public inquiry (David Woolfall/PA)

Venables was released on licence in July 2001 and recalled to prison in February 2010 after indecent images of children were found on his computer.

He was once again freed in August 2013 and then called back in November 2017 for the same offence and was jailed for three years and four months.

In December last year, the Parole Board made the decision not to release Venables from jail, because he continued to pose a danger to children and could go on to offend again.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said the “standard of communication” which should have been afforded to James’s mother Denise Fergus “has not been delivered”, and raised concerns about the treatment of other parents in similar situations.

Denise Fergus
The standard of communication which should have been afforded to James’s mother Denise Fergus ‘has not been delivered’, Labour MP Jess Phillips said (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She said: “Each and every time the state does not live by an obligation that it had previously promised that victim, it’s just another bit of erosion to believe that the case had been handled well in the first place.

“So each and every time something goes wrong in this case, over the last however many decades, each time it is a reminder that things were missed, that things weren’t covered in the court case, that things didn’t happen, and then we wonder why families call for a public inquiry.”

Ms Phillips, the MP for Birmingham, Yardley, continued: “Things have been missed in this case, and this is a case where the glare of all of the media is on it, I handle cases where nobody knows the name of the little boy or girl whose been killed.

“I suspect that Denise Fergus is getting a better service than most.

“And the point of having public inquiry and truth and justice seeking reviews, isn’t just for retribution, isn’t just to satisfy and tick a box for a grieving family, it is to ensure that our systems are correct.”

Justice minister Edward Argar said: “While I do fully appreciate the significant concerns that have been expressed and indeed the strength and sincerity of the feelings on this issue, I am not in a position today to announce a public inquiry, though I appreciate that will be disappointing.”

Mr Argar offered to meet with Sir George and other MPs to discuss the issue further, but added: “I don’t want to raise expectations that I can’t meet, and I don’t intend to do that, but I will have a conversation.”