A WOMAN from Kidderminster has narrowly avoided jail after sharing information online said to be about James Bulger killer Jon Venables.

Natalie Barker, 36, of Kidderminster, and Richard McKeag, 28, of Bacup, Lancashire, admitted breaching a worldwide ban on revealing Venables' identity by posting pictures and other details.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Mr Justice Warby, sentenced the pair, who are not known to each other, at a High Court hearing in London on Thursday (January 31).

The judges handed McKeag a 12-month sentence, while Barker was given eight months, both suspended for two years.

Lord Burnett said that, were it not for their personal circumstances, they would have been sent to prison immediately for their "serious" breaches of the injunction protecting Venables' identity.

The judge told the court there was a risk of someone being "killed or seriously injured", including anyone who was wrongly identified as one of the Liverpool boy's killers.

He said the "haunting images" of James Bulger being led to his death, aged two, by Venables and Robert Thompson, would "remain forever in the minds of anyone who saw them".

The judge added: "The murder shocked the nation, indeed it resulted in much soul-searching.

"How was it that two boys, still at primary school, could be capable of such a wicked crime?"

Barker, a single mother of three, previously admitted five breaches of the injunction and sat quietly behind her legal team throughout the hearing.

In February and March 2018, she posted a picture which purported to be of Venables and his fiance on her Twitter account, which had 649 followers.

The image was retweeted 24 times and received a number of likes, and she persisted even after receiving warnings from Twitter and the police.

Lord Burnett said she had persisted in "impulsive and stupid conduct, heedless of the consequences for others and careless of the consequences for herself and her family".

Her lawyers said she now understood the seriousness of her actions, had expressed remorse and has closed her Twitter account.

The court heard McKeag admitted three breaches after posting an article on his website freeandfearless.org.uk entitled "Jon Venables Pictured - Killer's Identity Revealed" in November 2017.

The article contained photographs, said to be of Venables, and purported to reveal his new identity and place of work.

He was "well aware" of the injunction and wrote about risking legal action, as well as encouraging people to share the article widely in a bid to "defeat the legal system by mass publication", the court heard.

McKeag's lawyers told the court he suffered serious mental and physical health problems and was unwell when he posted the article.

A court order was made in 2001, legally binding worldwide, which bans the publication of anything that reveals the identities of Venables and Robert Thompson.

They have been living anonymously with new identities since being released from a life sentence for the kidnap, torture and murder of James in 1993, when they were aged 10.

Jonathan Hall QC, representing Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC, told the court there continue to be significant breaches of the order.

The court heard one man mistaken for Venables had "endured five years of danger" and he and his family had been forced to flee for their lives.

Mr Cox, who instigated contempt proceedings against McKeag and Barker last year, said after the hearing: "These are both serious examples of contempt of court and I instigated these proceedings as it was in the wider public interest to do so.

"The injunction protects the identities of the offenders, but also innocent individuals who may be wrongly identified as being one of the two men and placed in danger as a result.

"I will review any further contempt of court allegations made to me, and hope this sends a message to anyone tempted to do the same thing.

"Posting this material online is a crime."