SOBBING Shameless star Tina Malone today escaped jail after sharing an apparent photo of James Bulger’s killer online.
The 56-year-old actress was given an eight month suspended jail sentence after admitting to breaching the injunction that protects the identity of Jon Venables – blaming the social media post on the stress of her cocaine panto arrest.
The actress sobbed and hugged members of her family after the sentence was read out.
She was also ordered to pay £10,000 in court costs.
Tearful Malone, who wore a white blouse after taking off her leopard-print fur coat for the hearing, told the High Court she had been going through the “worst two years of her entire life” when she shared the alleged picture of Venables last year.
She told the court she had been left suicidal after police found cocaine in her handbag while she starred as the wicked fairy godmother in the Sleeping Beauty panto in Barrow-in-Furness at Christmas in 2017. The star, who accepted a caution from cops, maintained the drugs had been planted there.
Speaking in court today, the actress said: “I didn’t know there was an injunction, I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known.
“I was on a lot of anti-depressants.
“It was on the internet, isn’t everyone on the internet? Why am I here? Why isn’t Mark Zuckerberg or someone here?
“I didn’t know what I was doing. If I’d known I wouldn’t have done it.”
She said she was aware Venables had been granted anonymity after being released from prison, but claimed she did not know what an injunction was when she shared the post.
The maximum sentence for contempt of court is two years’ imprisonment, or an unlimited fine.
The pictures were said to have breached an injunction made “against the world” that banned images or information which could identify Venables or fellow killer Robert Thompson as adults.
Why am I here? Why isn’t Mark Zuckerberg or someone here?
The pair – who became the youngest murderers in modern British history when they were convicted in 1993 – were given new identities following their release from prison.
Malone had previously posted a message on social media saying she had received a High Court summons and asked for help in finding a lawyer.
In a series of social media posts, the star said: “So as i watched denise and stu fergus on this mng today! I have been served geuss who is taking me to high court!!
“I need a lawyer asap!!!! Iv been committed to the high court!!!”
She later added: “Iv had a wonderful day till i opened my front door 5mins ago!!! The high court have served me!!”
Malone has been an ambassador for The James Bulger Memorial Trust and has said in the past that she was friends with the murdered lad’s mum.
The star previously told the Daily Star Sunday: “I didn’t have a clue it was illegal.
“What are you going to do… prosecute me for posting a picture?
“I didn’t realise. I am not au fait with the law.”
The actress, from Liverpool, is best known for playing Mimi Maguire in the Channel 4 series Shameless, as well as Mo McGee in Brookside.
INJUNCTION HAD BEEN CHALLENGED BY BULGER FAMILY
Two people narrowly avoided jail in January for posting information online said to be about Venables.
Richard McKeag, 28, and Natalie Barker, 36, admitted breaching the ban on revealing Venables’ identity by posting pictures and other details.
At a High Court hearing in January, McKeag was handed a 12-month sentence, while Barker was given eight months, both suspended for two years.
Earlier this month, the father and uncle of James Bulger failed in a bid to have the injunction varied to allow his past identities to be revealed.
Lawyers for Ralph and Jimmy Bulger argued details about the killer, including identities given to him up to 2017, were “common knowledge” and easily accessible online.
They asked the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, to vary the order so it would no longer protect this information.
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However, in a ruling at the High Court last week, the judge refused to alter the anonymity order, which he said was to protect the “uniquely notorious” Venables from “being put to death”.
The injunction was amended in relation to Venables after he was convicted of further offences in 2010 and February last year.
He was jailed for three years and four months last year after admitting surfing the dark web for extreme child abuse images and possessing a “sickening” paedophile manual.
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