Legal experts believe the decision by the High Court Monday to grant life-long anonymity to the murderers of toddler James Bulger could be undermined by the Internet.
The High Court's injunction bans news organisations in England and Wales from publishing details of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson who beat Bulger to death in February 1993 when they were both aged 10.
The pair will be given new identities upon their release, probably later this year.
However, there are concerns that if a foreign newspaper published details on the murderers, it could be read in England and Wales on the paper's Internet edition. Bulger's father has promised to hunt the pair down upon their release.
According to Robin Bynoe, partner at London law firm Charles Russell, the threat is genuine. "An injunction only applies to the extent to which a court can impose it. There's no practical way to enforce this injunction in America, for example, so a US newspaper could publish the information free from prosecution."
Bynoe explains that legislation dealing with complex jurisdictional issues on the Internet are nebulous in the extreme, leaving little comfort for Bulger's killers. "This is all new territory, but it's probably not illegal to put this information on a foreign Web site, and it's probably not illegal to access it in the UK," he says. "It could be a question of secondary liability, where an ISP could be legally liable."
Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court Family Division, who made the landmark ruling admitted that the injunction might not prevent information about Venables and Thompson being placed on the Internet, according to Monday's Times newspaper.
Butler-Sloss added a further proviso to her ruling, which stated that even if details of the pair entered the public domain via the Internet it would still be an offence to publish them in England and Wales.
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