Dominic Raab pledges to contest decision to free Baby P’s mother from jail
The Justice Secretary said he plans to appeal against the Parole Board decision which recommended the mother of Baby P, who died after months of abuse, should be freed from jail.
Dominic Raab made the announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday after the Parole Board said Tracey Connelly should be released.
Describing the case as “harrowing”, Mr Raab told the Commons: “In light of the Parole Board’s direction to release Tracey Connelly, I should inform the House that having carefully read the decision, I have decided to apply to the Parole Board to seek their reconsideration.”
It comes as he told MPs the case for reforming the parole process was “clear and made out” as he vowed to “enforce public safety” with an overhaul of the system.
Connelly was jailed at the Old Bailey in 2009 for causing or allowing the death of her 17-month-old son Peter at their home in Tottenham, north London, on August 3 2007.
Known publicly as Baby P, he had suffered more than 50 injuries, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police officers and health professionals over eight months.
Now 40, Connelly had admitted the offence and was handed a sentence of imprisonment for public protection with a minimum term of five years.
Her boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen were convicted of the same offence.
A series of reviews identified missed opportunities for officials to save the toddler’s life had they reacted properly to warning signs.
According to a parole report, at the time of her crimes Connelly, then 25, got into relationships quickly, used sex to “help her feel better about herself” and had an “inability to control extreme emotions”.
She was also described as “manipulative” and lacking in empathy.
Connelly was let out on licence in 2013 but recalled to prison in 2015 for breaching her parole conditions by “developing intimate personal relationships” online and inciting another resident at her accommodation to engage in “inappropriate sexualised behaviour”.
This was her fourth parole review.
The Parole Board most recently considered Connelly’s case for a third time in 2019 following previous reviews in 2015 and 2017, and refused to either release her or move her to an open prison.
In 2020, she lost an appeal against the latest Parole Board decision not to release her.
Since being recalled to prison, Connelly has taken part in a “very intensive” treatment programme from the Ministry of Justice and the NHS over three years and is “now able to work openly and honestly with professionals”, the report added.
The Parole Board said it was satisfied Connelly is suitable for release after hearing she is now considered to be at “low risk of committing a further offence” and that her probation officers and prison officials supported the plan.
A spokesman said the Parole Board’s decisions are “solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community”, adding that reviews “undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care” and that protecting the public is its “number one priority.”
Mr Raab will contest the ruling under the reconsideration mechanism, introduced in July 2019, which allows the Justice Secretary and the prisoner to challenge the board’s decision within 21 days if they believe them to be “procedurally unfair” or “irrational”.
But the move prompted questions after the Parole Board document said a representative for the secretary of state, understood to be a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) official who was present throughout the review, “confirmed” the recommendation to release Connelly was “accepted”.
Representatives for the secretary of state are rarely appointed to take part in parole reviews, typically only for sensitive cases.
Although the Parole Board makes the final decision, it takes into account submissions from professionals, officials and other witnesses.
Whitehall sources stressed Mr Raab disagreed with the plan to release Connelly and had no direct involvement in the review process, claiming there had been a “misunderstanding” and the MoJ’s position had not been accurately reflected.
But they were unable to say whether any Government officials had raised concerns about Connelly’s release during the review.
A legal source expressed surprise that the Justice Secretary would not have been made aware of such a high-profile case and suggested there had been a “system failure” within the MoJ.
A MoJ spokeswoman said: “This emphasises the need for reform of the parole system and ministerial oversight of the most serious cases.”
Connelly will be subject to restrictions on her movements, activities and who she contacts, and faces 20 extra licence conditions.
They include living at a specified address, being supervised by probation, wearing an electronic tag, adhering to a curfew and having to disclose her relationships.
Her use of the internet and a phone will be monitored and she has been told she cannot go to certain places to “avoid contact with victims and to protect children”.
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