A man who tweeted a photo that is said to have revealed the identity of James Bulger killer Jon Venables has been jailed for nine months.
Anthony John Wixted, 51, breached a worldwide ban on revealing the killer’s identity by posting the picture, as well as an alias purportedly used by Venables and the prison in which he was allegedly being held.
Wixted, from south London, admitted contempt of court over the breach of a 2001 injunction banning the publication of anything purporting to reveal the identities, appearance or whereabouts of Venables and Robert Thompson.
Aged 10, Venables and Thompson murdered two-year-old James Bulger in February 1993 after abducting him from a shopping centre in Liverpool and leading him to a railway track 2.5miles away.
James’ mutilated body was found two days after he went missing.
They have been living anonymously with new identities since being released from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture and murder of James when they were aged 10.
Sentencing Wixted at the High Court in London on Thursday, Lord Justice Bean, sitting with Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said: “Save in exceptional circumstances, a deliberate breach of this injunction should result in immediate custody.
There is in our view nothing exceptional about this case.”
Wixted, appearing in court in an orange shirt and a red tie, showed no emotion as he was handcuffed and led away to the cells.
The court heard that on February 20 2018, around the time of the 25th anniversary of the murder, Wixted posted the photo on his Twitter account, which had more than 15,000 followers, with the words “SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE”.
Lord Justice Bean said two other Twitter users replied to Wixted’s post, warning him about the existence of the injunction and the fact that he had breached it.
But Wixted replied to one: “Most people on Twitter think I’m doing a good job … I don’t have to justify anything to anyone.”
Wixted also added a link to a local newspaper article about the conditions at the prison in which Venables was allegedly being held with the caption “LOL”.
Lord Justice Bean said the initial tweet was not deleted for three months and was retweeted 47 times and liked at least 56 times.
Sentencing Wixted, Lord Justice Bean said the High Court had “repeatedly stated” that breaches of the injunction preventing the identification of Venables or Thompson should result in immediate custodial sentences “save in exceptional circumstances”.
“That is so not only because breaches pose a substantial risk to Venables or Thompson, but also because they pose a substantial risk to innocent members of the public who might be mistaken for Venables, as occurred in 2010.”
Earlier, Bernard Richmond QC told the court in mitigation that Wixted was “a rather sad and lonely individual who has for many, many years been fighting his own demons”.
He said Wixted was “interested in journalism and, in particular, in the subject of child abuse, and much of the work he has done has been perfectly legitimate”.
But Wixted had “stupidly” decided to post the picture at a time when “many other people were getting worked up about the same thing”, he added.
Asking the court to suspend any custodial sentence, Mr Richmond said Wixted had not only taken the post down but also decided “not to engage in any discussion about Mr Venables”.
Wixted is believed to be the fourth individual to be sentenced in 2019 for breaching the injunction protecting Venables and Thompson.
Actress Tina Malone was given an eight-month suspended sentence in March for sharing a post on Facebook in February 2018 which purportedly included an image and the new name of Venables.
In January, two people narrowly avoided jail after sharing information also said to be about Venables.
Richard McKeag, 28, and Natalie Barker, 36, were given suspended sentences.
Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said that, were it not for their personal circumstances, they would have been sent to prison immediately for “serious” breaches of the injunction.