A woman who posted a photo said to show one of James Bulger’s killers on Facebook has been spared jail.
Tina McGuire, 53, breached a worldwide ban on revealing Jon Venables’ identity by posting the picture as well as a name Venables was said to be using and the prison where he was allegedly being held.
McGuire, from Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, admitted contempt of court by breaching the 2001 injunction, which bans the publication of anything purporting to reveal the identities, appearance or whereabouts of Venables and Robert Thompson.
The pair have been living anonymously with new identities since being released from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture, and murder of two-year-old James in February 1993 when they were aged 10.
At a High Court hearing in London on Thursday McGuire was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for 15 months.
Lord Justice Davis, sitting with Mrs Justice May, said the case was “close to the line” for an immediate prison sentence but that in light of “the early, frank admission, the remorse, the stated and evidenced determination not to infringe again and the psychiatric report” the sentence could be suspended. McGuire was also ordered to pay legal fees of £3,000.
Katherine Hardcastle, representing the Solicitor General, earlier told the court the case was brought against McGuire for “a post made by Ms McGuire on her personal Facebook page on February 20, 2018”, shortly after the 25th anniversary of the murder.
The barrister added McGuire’s post, which was shared 627 times, was the second time she had attempted to post information purportedly about Venables.
On November 24, 2017, McGuire posted on Facebook a picture purporting to be of Venables as an adult with a caption which encouraged others to “share this as much as possible as this photograph I posted this morning was removed”.
Ms Hardcastle submitted the reference to another photograph being removed “demonstrates that there were two posts on that day”, making the February 2018 post “the third occasion on which she had purported to post a picture of Venables in three months”.
She said the contempt proceedings were not brought in relation to that post because of legal issues with her first police interview but said it provided “essential context” for the later post.
The barrister added it was “notable” the November 2017 post “included a photograph of a different man to the February 20 post” and that McGuire had admitted in interview at least “one of those images must be wrong”.
Lord Justice Davis observed it was “particularly troubling that two separate men seem to have been identified” as Venables.
Ms Hardcastle said the posts posed a risk of “serious harm” to Venables as well as “those mistakenly identified as Venables”.
John Hipkin, representing McGuire, accepted “this is an extremely serious matter” but asked the court to suspend any sentence imposed on his client.
He said there was “a real prospect of rehabilitation” and said McGuire had since withdrawn from all forms of social media.
McGuire, who appeared in court in a black and white blouse, showed little emotion when the sentence was passed.