Justice Secretary Dominic Raab called for reform after his bid to keep Tracey Connelly behind bars was rejected.
05 May 2022
The Justice Secretary has said the Parole Board needs a “fundamental overhaul” after it rejected his bid to keep the mother of Baby P behind bars.
Tracey Connelly, whose son Peter died after months of abuse, could walk free within weeks after a judge rejected the Government’s bid to keep her in jail for longer.
Dominic Raab condemned the decision, arguing it was proof the parole system needed to change.
Now 40, 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.
She was released on licence in 2013 but recalled to prison in 2015 for breaching her parole conditions.
Mr Raab said Connelly’s actions were “pure evil”, adding: “The decision to release her demonstrates why the Parole Board needs a fundamental overhaul – including a ministerial check for the most serious offenders – so that it serves and protects the public.”
In March, the Parole Board decided Connelly was suitable for release – having rejected three previous bids in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – after hearing she is now considered to be at “low risk of committing a further offence” and that probation officers and prison officials supported the plan.
But last month Mr Raab asked the board, which is independent of government, to re-examine the decision under the so-called reconsideration mechanism.
On Thursday, the Parole Board announced that application had been “refused”.
A spokesman said in a statement: “Following the reconsideration application from the Secretary of State, a judge has ruled that the decision made by independent Parole Board members to release was not irrational, as stated in the reconsideration application, and the original decision is upheld.”
Documents setting out the ruling highlighted concerns over Connelly’s ability to manipulate and deceive, also revealing how she had become embroiled in prison romances and traded secret love letters with an inmate.
The reconsideration mechanism, introduced in July 2019, allows the Justice Secretary and the prisoner to challenge the Parole Board’s decision within 21 days if they believe them to be “procedurally unfair” or “irrational”.
Victims and members of the public can also make a request via the minister.
But the threshold is high and is the same as is required when seeking a judicial review in court.
The provisions also make clear that “being unhappy” with the decision is not grounds for reconsideration.
Mr Raab intervened on the grounds that the decision to free Connelly was “irrational”, arguing it had failed to take proper account of information surrounding the case and did not provide sufficient reasons for its conclusions.
Parole judge Jeremy Roberts QC, who considered the appeal, said: “I have carefully considered all of the arguments advanced by the Secretary of State in support of his application, but … cannot find anything in them to justify reconsideration of the panel’s decision.
“This application is therefore refused and the panel’s provisional decision is now final.”
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 – initially a bail hostel – as well as 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”.
Previously Mr Raab told MPs the case for overhauling the parole process was “clear and made out” as he vowed to “enforce public safety”.
The Parole Board has in the past said it welcomes the reconsideration mechanism as a “crucial safeguard in the system which allows an avenue for people to scrutinise our decisions”.