Legal threat doesn't stop Sunday Mirror Venables story

The Attorney General’s office said this morning that no action is currently being taken against newspapers for breaching secrecy orders related to child-killer Jon Venables.

This is despite the fact that the Sunday Mirror revealed the nature of the new allegations against Venables which led to him being sent back to jail, two days after The Sun was threatened with an injunction by the Attorney General’s office when it planned to do so.

On Saturday The Sun revealed that Venables had committed “a sickening sex crime” but did not go any further saying that late on Friday night they were asked by Treasury solicitors, acting on behalf of the Attorney General, to “withhold any information about Venables’ alleged offence”.

Government lawyers argued that publishing full details could lead to Venables’ identification, and thus breach the 2001 injunction which protected the new identities of Venables and Robert Thomson in 2001 after being convicted in 1993 for the murder of two-year-old James Bulger when they were both aged 10.

The Sun reported that it was also warned publishing further details of the alleged crime could potentially prejudice any future criminal trial.

Ignoring an injunction could lead to the editor being jailed and the entire issue being pulped and withdrawn from sale.

The Sunday Mirror went further yesterday, claiming that Venables, who is now 27, was jailed on suspicion of offences related to child pornography. Press Gazette understands that the Sunday Mirror was not threatened with any injunction over the story.

Although Venables would stand trial for any new offences under his new name – Government lawyers fear that too much publicity now about the alleged offences could lead to jurors at a future criminal trial discovering Venables’ real identity. This could allow defence lawyers to have the case thrown out arguing that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial.

The 2001 injunction bans publication of anything which could lead to the identification of Thomson and Venables.

Although proceedings are not active in the case of Venables under the terms of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act, editors have been warned that they still risk committing contempt of court and prejudicing a future trial of they ignore Government warnings not to publish further details about the new Venables allegations.

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