A racist who shared a Facebook post which purported to unmask James Bulger’s killers narrowly avoided returning to jail after being warned by a judge.
Michael O’Neill drunkenly shared the offending post, in breach of a worldwide ban on revealing the identities of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, in February 2018 on the 25th anniversary of the Bootle toddler’s murder.
The 61-year-old, of Plymouth, who is currently in prison for stirring up racial hatred online, admitted contempt of court and was handed a four-month suspended sentence at the High Court in London on Wednesday.
Appearing over a video link from HMP Channings Wood, O’Neill was told by Lord Justice Leggatt that if he posts anything online in breach of the order within two years he will find himself back behind bars.
The judge said: “You must stay away from posting this sort of material on your computer or otherwise you will find that no sooner are you out of prison you will be back there again.”
O’Neill, who the court heard has cancer and possibly dementia, replied: “This sentence has probably saved my life, my drinking was completely out of control.
“I might be a bit ill when I get out but I won’t be an alcoholic.”
Lord Justice Leggatt responded: “I hope that will help you to see sense too when you get online.”
The court heard O’Neill was drunk when he shared the post – which had been created by another Facebook user – with his 59 friends on the site at about 2.30am on February 12 2018.
The post read: “The most two evil b******s, they should rot in hell. The police are trying to stop this circulating on the internet as it would expose the identities of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson.”
It included pictures of the pair aged 10, following their arrest for James’ murder, and photographs said to be of them from about 10 years ago.
Police discovered the post while investigating his other online activity following his arrest in July 2018 and reported it to the Attorney General’s Office.
O’Neill was jailed for two years and one month at Plymouth Crown Court in December after being found guilty of eight counts of stirring up racial hatred by posting offensive comments online.
His lawyers told the court he was living an “isolated” existence at the time of the offences and was drinking heavily but had stopped drinking in prison and now understands his behaviour was unacceptable.
He is due to be released on December 21 but will have to return to jail to serve the four-month sentence for contempt if he disobeys the order again.
Thompson and Venables were convicted in 1993 of murdering James, who they abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle.
They have been living anonymously under new identities since their release in 2001 and a court order was made to stop anyone publishing their names, appearance or whereabouts.
The order was later updated to include any information “purporting” to be about them after a number of people who were wrongly identified as the killers of James were targeted by vigilantes.