Two men who used Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. to publish photographs of the killers of Liverpool toddler James Bulger avoided jail terms.
Dean Liddle and Neil Harkins posted photographs claiming to identify Jon Venables and Robert Thompson on the social media sites, which were “shared hundreds if not thousands of times,” breaching an order in effect since 2001, lawyers representing the U.K. Attorney General Dominic Grieve said in court documents filed in London. They received suspended sentences of 15 months today.
The murder of Bulger in 1993 was one of the most notorious in British history as Venables and Thompson were 10 when they abducted and killed the two-year-old. The pair were released from jail in 2001. The case triggered public protests and their identities were changed to protect them from reprisals.
“No one should contemplate taking the law into their own hands,” Judge John Thomas said in sentencing Liddle and Harkins. “Vigilantism has no place in a civilized society.”
Lawyers for Liddle and Harkins said in court their clients admitted posting the material. The maximum penalty for contempt of court is two years in prison, lawyers for the government said.
“The level of animosity towards Thompson and Venables has not diminished,” Melanie Cumberland, a lawyer for the government, said in court today. Grieve is looking into bringing further prosecutions against other individuals, she said.
Thomas warned that if other people publish photographs claiming to identify Thompson and Venables, they should expect a substantial jail term.