Thug who supplied gun which killed 11-year-old Rhys Jones to be released from jail

Schoolboy Rhys Jones’ parents were informed James Yates is no longer banned from entering the Croxteth area of Liverpool where their son was killed aged just 11

The thug who supplied the gun for 11-year-old schoolboy Rhys Jones’ murder is set to be released from jail this week.

James Yates was returned to prison last November after breaching his licence conditions, following the 12 years he was handed for his role in the killing Rhys.

Now in his early 30s, the one-time Croxteth gang member is a hated figure on Merseyside for his part in handing the murder weapon to teen killer Sean Mercer and then later helping him cover his tracks after the crime in 2007, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Known as “Yatesy”, his 2015 decision to ask for the lifting of a banning order stopping him going back into the neighbourhood where Rhys’ parents live, so he could visit a sick relative, sparked widespread anger.

And in 2018, he came to the attention of police again over his alleged involvement in a heroin dealing ring in Dundee, a charge which was eventually dropped when witnesses were too scared to support a prosecution.

His return to jail last year followed him breaching his licence, and although it was never confirmed how this was done, it was suggested he had handed himself in to police in Manchester.

Today, Rhys’ parents were informed the strict conditions, which were preventing the career criminal entering Croxteth, are no longer in force.

It means he is able to return to the L11 area, where he has friends and connections, and where his family still live.

It is believed Yates is set to be released from custody this week.

This afternoon, Steve Jones, Rhys’ dad, said: “It’s very disappointing.

“We could bump into him at any time.”

The Probation Service relayed the news to the Jones family.

The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.

Yates was jailed for seven years for supplying the Smith and Wesson gun used to shoot Rhys which was then extended to 12 years as it was considered to be too lenient.

Mercer shot Rhys outside the Fir Tree pub in Croxteth Park before leaving the scene on his mountain bike in August 2007.

The 18-year-old was found guilty of the murder of Rhys.

Yates helped him to dispose of his bike, clothes and the gun.

His parents, Francis and Marie, were also convicted of trying to throw murder squad detectives off the scent and hide their son’s involvement.

But police hid bugs in Yates’ Croxteth home and listened in as they openly talked about the murder and subsequent cover-up.

Yates, 19 at the time of the murder, was sentenced in 2009 for possession of a firearm and assisting an offender.

He smirked and hollered excitedly with his thug pals when a judge handed him just seven years for his part in orchestrating the youngster’s murder.

And shockingly, the remorseless yob was heard during his trial to hiss: “All this fuss over a kid.”