Suspended sentences for pair who breached Bulger killers' identity ban

Robert Thompson (l) and Jon Venables (r)

Sir John Thomas sitting at the High Court ruled two men were in breach of the injunction stopping the identification of James Bulger's killers, John Venables and Robert Thompson, and therefore in contempt of court.

Reflecting on the "gravity" of their offence he said they would be given nine months imprisonment but because of mitigating circumstances it would be suspended.

Neil Harkins and Dean Liddle, were accused of breaching the injunction by posting information on Twitter and Facebook.

The High Court was told that Neil Harkins and Dean Liddle both breached an injunction put in place when Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were released from custody in order to protect their new identities.

Both posted pictures which purported to be of the two men as adults, who were convicted as boys of killing the toddler James Bulger, on their Twitter sites, on 14th February, shortly after the 20th anniversary of James Bulger's death.

Lawyers for both men indicated to the court this morning that they accepted they are in contempt of the injunction.

The court has been told by barrister Melanie Cumberland that the Attorney General brought the proceedings because of the strong public interest.

The importance is of protecting not just Venables and Thompson but anyone else who might correctly or incorrectly identified as them.

The information was posted on Twitter and Facebook. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The court has been told by the judge, Sir John Thomas, that it is accepted by these two individuals that there is no distinction between them blogging or tweeting as private individuals and the more traditional media, since their blogs or tweets can be accessed by thousands of people.

He has also told the court that he thinks it would be sensible for the Attorney General to put the injunction in a place where Internet users could easily see or access it.

Several of the responses to the pictures were read out in court, showing that some members of public still feel that the killers should be in jail.

One said: "The majority of the country hate them and wish them dead."

The images were posted by Dean Liddle at 1.42am and removed less than an hour later, after questions were raised that they may have got the wrong people. The Twitter profile of Liddle had 915 followers.

The conversation that followed on the social network site said that it might be Venables and Liddle responds: "I was passed these by a friend if there is doubt about it being him I will remove."

After he was contacted by the Attorney General's office Dean Liddle posted the following tweets:

But he quickly changed his tune when he received the letter saying that he would be prosecuted.

He then wrote and apologised, saying he had not fully understood the terms of the injunction and that he had seen the same images on hundreds of other sites.

The court heard that Neil Harkins is a father and has young children and was very upset by the crimes committed by Venables and Thompson.

He put images on his Facebook page on 14th February 2013. Harkins has 141 followers and the images were shared with 24,039 people before he was contacted by the Attorney General and deactivated his account on 28th February.

Several of the responses to the pictures were read out in court, showing that some members of public still feel that they should be in jail. Credit: Chris Young/PA

He commented at the time of posting the picture "interesting that this photo isn't allowed to be shown and there's an investigation on how it got out. What's more interesting is why the he'll (sic) he got released and protected in the first place."

After he became aware he had broken the injunction he wrote to apologise in the fullest terms. He claimed that he had come across the pictures after logging onto a news article online.

Barrister outlines Dean Liddle background, saying he works as voluntary assistant at local school to help the most challenging children. He is married with a son, who is profoundly deaf.