A CRIMINAL who was given a potentially life-long sentence for a spate of violent street attacks and muggings has convinced top judges to free him on appeal.

Peter Richard Venables, aged 24, of Chorley Old Road, Bolton, took part in a succession of gang-related offences, with two of his victims brutally battered, when he was aged just 17.

The incidents all took place on the same night in January, 2007.

Venables was locked up indefinitely for public protection — a sentence which can mean a life-term — after he admitted two counts of robbery, inflicting actual bodily harm and wounding with intent at Bolton Crown Court in April, 2007.

But two of the country's most senior judges, sitting at London's Appeal Court, yesterday upheld a sentence challenge by Venables, cutting his term to five years behind bars and five more on licence — effectively freeing him immediately.

Lord Justice Jackson said Venables and other youths committed a frightening litany of crimes in the early hours of January 14, 2007.

At about 2am, Venables and an accomplice attacked James Carter, knocking him to the ground and punching him, leaving him unconscious, the appeal judge said.

He was taken to hospital with bruises and cuts to his head, which had to be stitched and glued shut.

Mr Carter also had his wallet, containing bank cards and £20 in cash, stolen.

Venables and others then assaulted Michael Parkinson, kicking him in the head and causing him “serious injury”.

Then, at about 3am, Venables and four youths assaulted a third man and punched and kicked him to the ground.

When the victim later returned to the scene to look for his missing watch, the group attacked him again with a glass bottle. They then stole his phone and cash.

Venables admitted all the offences after his arrest. He was deemed a “dangerous” offender by the sentencing judge, who handed him an indeterminate period of detention in a young offenders' institution.

On appeal Venable's barrister, James Dixon, argued that the judge erred in imposing such a term.

Mr Dixon pointed to evidence that, despite a poor start to his time in custody, Venables had shown true remorse and had kicked a debilitating drug habit since his incarceration.

Lord Justice Jackson, sitting with Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said: “We have carefully considered Mr Dixon's written advice and written submissions and we think that this argument is well-founded.”

Allowing the appeal, he concluded: “In our view, the proper sentence in this case was an extended sentence of 10 years, comprising a five-year custodial term and a five-year extension period.”

As a result, Venables is eligible for immediate release, with the remainder of his sentence to be served on licence in the community.