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Shameless star Tina Malone is summonsed to appear at High Court

Actress Tina Malone, pictured in Manchester on January 17, faces High Court proceedings

Actress Tina Malone faces contempt of court proceedings after re-tweeting a photograph allegedly showing James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables.

The 55-year actress from Liverpool, who has appeared in Shameless and Brookside, posted a series of messages on Facebook saying she had been served papers by the High Court.

One read: ‘I need a lawyer ASAP! I’ve been committed to the High Court!’

Another said: ‘I’ve had a wonderful day until I opened my front door five minutes ago! The High Court have served me!’

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed it had sent a summons to Malone. 

Venables and fellow killer Robert Thompson were given new identities following the murder in February 1993, which are strictly protected under the terms of a lifelong injunction.

The worldwide injunction bans any images or information relating to their identities being published or shared online.

Although the offence has a maximum punishment of two years in jail, earlier cases would suggest she would likely only receive a suspended sentence if found guilty. 

Jon Venables

Robert Thompson

Jon Venables (left) and fellow killer Robert Thompson (right) were given new identities following the murder, which are strictly protected under the terms of a lifelong injunction

Malone posted  messages on Facebook saying she had been served papers by the High Court

Malone posted messages on Facebook saying she had been served papers by the High Court

In April 2013, two men who published photos said to show James’s killers received nine-month sentences, suspended for 15 months, for being in contempt of court.

Neil Harkins, 35, and Dean Liddle, 28, admitted to posting pictures on Facebook and Twitter respectively in February 2013 – two days after the killing’s 20th anniversary.

James Bulger was murdered in 1993 aged two

James Bulger was murdered in 1993 aged two

Today, Malone has been accused of retweeting an image of Venables last year, prompting the police to launch an investigation. 

Speaking in March 2018, she defended her actions – saying he should be ‘wiped from this earth’.

She told the Daily Star Sunday: ‘The police are only doing their job and if they’re going to caution me, arrest me, pull me in, or give me a slap on the wrist, I get that. 

‘They’d better be going for the two million other people who have shared Venables’ picture.’

‘Here I am posting a picture of a self-confessed paedo child-killer who has built a manual on how to rape a baby, yet I’m the one being threatened and vilified and possibly going to prison. You know what, do the crime, do the time.’

Malone, who is an ambassador of The James Bulger Memorial Trust and is friends with James’s mother Denise Fergus and her husband Stuart, also claimed she ‘didn’t have a clue’ that sharing the image was illegal, adding: ‘I’m not au fait with the law.’

Liverpool-born actress Malone played Mimi Maguire in Channel 4 TV series Shameless (above)

Liverpool-born actress Malone played Mimi Maguire in Channel 4 TV series Shameless (above)

Venables and Thompson, then aged just ten, abducted, tortured and murdered two-year-old James in 1993.

Law on publishing the new identities of killers

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were given new identities following the murder of James Bulger in 1993.

These are strictly protected under the terms of a lifelong global injunction.

It means anyone publishing images or details relating to their identities online could face up to two years in jail.

The law had traditionally been followed by traditional publishers such as newspapers and broadcasters – but since the invention of social media it also applies to Twitter and Facebook.

Proceedings for contempt are brought by the Attorney General, the Government’s law officer with the responsibility of policing contempt.

Venables was released on licence from prison in 2001 but has been sent back to jail twice, in 2010 and 2018, for possessing indecent images of children.

An Attorney General’s Office spokesman confirmed it had summoned the actress to appear at the High Court and the summons related to a social media post last year.

He added: ‘The law officers will review contempt of court allegations made to them, but they cannot comment on the nature of any investigations.

‘The law officers remind everyone that an injunction is in place which prevents publication of any images or information claiming to identify anyone as Jon Venables or Robert Thompson.’

A date for Malone’s hearing has yet to be fixed.

Her summons comes just days after Ms Fergus was left furious by a film about her son’s murder being nominated for an Oscar.

The father of the murdered toddler, Ralph Bulger, has spoken of his devastation that producers have released a film about his son's killing without the family's consent

The father of the murdered toddler, Ralph Bulger, has spoken of his devastation that producers have released a film about his son’s killing without the family’s consent

'Detainment' is made up of almost entirely of verbatim quotes from interview transcripts and shows  Venables and Thompson crying and asking for their parents as detectives quiz them

‘Detainment’ is made up of almost entirely of verbatim quotes from interview transcripts and shows Venables and Thompson crying and asking for their parents as detectives quiz them

‘Detainment’, written and directed by Irish filmmaker Vincent Lambe, has been nominated for the 91st Academy Awards in the ‘best live action short’ category.

Malone, at ITV's London studios, March 2017

Malone, at ITV’s London studios, March 2017

The film is based on transcripts of police interviews with Venables and Thompson.

Ms Fergus said: ‘It’s one thing making a film like this without contacting or getting permission from James family but another to have a child re-enact the final hours of James’s life before he was brutally murdered and making myself and my family have to relive this all over again.’

The 30-minute film is made up of almost entirely of verbatim quotes from interview transcripts and shows Venables and Thompson crying and asking for their parents as detectives quiz them over James’s death.

James’s father, Ralph Bulger, claimed he found the film ‘offensive’, and said nobody behind the making of the drama contacted him or anyone else in James’s family prior to its release.

What has happened to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson since James Bulger’s murder?

Jon Venables, pictured as a boy, has been given lifelong anonymity by the courts

Jon Venables, pictured as a boy, has been given lifelong anonymity by the courts

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were found guilty of killing Bulger in November 1993 and were sentenced to custody until they reached 18.

They were freed in 2001, aged 18, and given a new identity to protect him from the risk of vigilante attacks.

They were made the subjects of so-called ‘Mary Bell orders’, lifetime anonymity court injunctions named after Mary Bell, who was found guilty of killing two boys at a hearing in Newcastle in 1968.

Only six people have been made subject of the orders; Venables, Thompson, Bell, Maxine Carr, who was convicted of perverting the course of justice in the Soham murders, and two brothers who, aged ten and 11, tortured two younger boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire in 2009.

At the time of Venables’ first release from prison, a psychiatrist ruled that he did not pose a danger to the public and was extremely unlikely to commit any further offences.

Years later it emerged Venables had been detained in Vardy House – a small eight-bed section of Red Bank secure unit in St Helens on Merseyside – where it’s said he made such good progress he was kept there for eight years, despite it actually being a short-stay remand unit.  

Shortly before his release in 2001, when aged 17, Venables was reported to have allegedly had sex with a woman who worked at the Red Bank secure unit where he was being held. The allegations were investigated and a female staff member accused of sexual misconduct was suspended, never to return.

Venables’ release under his new identity went ahead and he is known to have been living independently by March 2002 – some time thereafter beginning a relationship with a woman who had a five-year-old child, although he denies having ever met them.

He was then reported to have had a number of ‘younger girlfriends’ which suggested he was enjoying a delayed adolescence.

As his supervision was apparently reduced, he developed drinking and drugs problems, and he compromised his identity at least twice by telling friends he was a convicted murderer.

In September 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of affray after a drunken brawl and was given a formal warning by the probation service for breaching the good behaviour terms of his licence.

Venables and Robert Thompson were freed eight years after they were first locked up

Venables and Robert Thompson were freed eight years after they were first locked up

Later the same year, Venables was cautioned for possession of cocaine after he was found with a small amount of the class A drug.

When a probation officer later visited his home in Cheshire to discuss his fears that he could be in danger, he was attempting to destroy the hard drive of his computer.

The hard drive was later examined by police, who discovered that it contained dozens of indecent images of children.

Venables admitted he had posed online as a 35-year-old woman who had abused her eight-year-old daughter, and was returned to prison.

During his latest imprisonment he was given yet another new identity because of the risk posed by a previous security breach. Venables was paroled again in 2013 and took on his fourth new identity.

He was been sentenced to 40 months in prison after pleading guilty to having more than 1,000 indecent images of children, in February 2018.

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