You Could Go To Prison For Sharing Pics Of Jon Venables
It's impossible to forget the names of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson - the men who abducted, tortured and murdered toddler James Bulger when they were both just ten years old in 1993.
The killers were imprisoned for eight years for the murder and released in 2001.
However, you may not know that sharing photos of either of the pair, in person or social media, could land you a prison sentence of up to two years and an unlimited fine. This could even apply even if the pic is not of them, but claims to be of them.
Venables and Thompson's crime was so horrific that the pair were given new identities on their release and made subject to a High Court injunction banning them from being identified to protect them from vigilante attacks. Breaching this order will put you in contempt of court, risking the fine and prison sentence.
According to The Mirror, the injunction, put in place by Judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, bans 'any depiction, image in any form, photograph, film or voice recording made or taken on or after 18 February 1993, which purports to be of Jon Venables or Robert Thompson or any description which purports to be of their physical appearance, voices or accents at any time since that date'.
That means you can get convicted for even claiming that a photo is of the two killers.
The injunction also bans any information purporting to identify anyone as having been Thompson and Venables, the pair's whereabouts at any time, or their contact details. Any prison containing the pair can only be named a year after they have been released on licence.
As the injunction only applies to pictures on or after 18 February 1993, it isn't illegal for you to share pictures of the pair's police mugshots or images of them from before the murder. However, posting or sharing any picture of 'what they look like now' is a big no-no.
If you think that no one has been punished for breaching the order, you're wrong: in 2013, two men were given suspended sentences for posting pics they claimed to be of the killers on Facebook. Last year, the Attorney General was investigating claims of pictures being shared of Venables on social media.
Steve Kuncewicz, a specialist in media law at law firm BLM, told The Mirror that even if you shared the pictures not knowing you've broken the law, or think you'll be OK if everyone's doing it, that doesn't mean you won't be punished.
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"People can get swept up in a discussion, share these messages and not fully realise they are committing an offence. But you don't have to intend to break the law to do it," Kuncewicz said.
"The worry is posting the images could cause someone to try and track the killers down. The whole idea of the law is to try and stop trial by media.
"Some people may think that if enough people share these images, that might stop the spotlight from being put on them, but that is not the case.
"The only thing that is needed is a printout showing this information has been shared, and that could become evidence in a court room. It leaves a permanent footprint.
"The old saying says 'act in haste, repent at leisure' and that couldn't be truer in this case."
There have recently been renewed calls to strip Venables of his anonymity, following his conviction last month for possessing indecent images of children and a 'paedophile manual'.
Venables was sentenced to three years and four months, although it will be up to the Parole Board to decide when he can be released on licence due to his serving life for Bulger's murder.
Despite the calls, led by Bulger's parents Ralph Bulger and Denise Fergus, legal commentator The Secret Barrister has stressed that Venables' anonymity must be upheld.
"If the courts are aware of a very real risk to the life and limb of a citizen, even one as foul as Jon Venables, it has a legal duty under the Convention, and a plain moral duty, to take steps necessary to prevent that serious harm," The Secret Barrister told LADbible.
"Anonymity is not a privilege or a luxury; it is a necessity."
Featured Image Credit: PA