Justice Secretary Dominic Raab under fire as mum of tragic Baby P to be released from jail

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab was last night facing serious questions about why his department did not oppose a decision to free the mother of tragic Baby P.

The Parole Board approved the release of Tracey Connelly last month. Paperwork seen by our sister paper the Sunday Mirror states a junior official acting on behalf of Raab “confirmed that this recommendation was accepted”.

Yet 14 days later, following public fury at the news, Raab dramatically told Parliament that he would fight the decision to let the notorious mother out.

Baby P – 17-month-old Peter Connelly – died in agony, suffering a fractured spine and eight broken ribs in 2007. Connelly, her lover
Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen were all jailed.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab

Insiders say the parole row U-turn has sparked rage at the Ministry of Justice, with Raab insisting his position was “miscommunicated”.

But senior sources are concerned why he did not give a direct briefing to the junior official from the public protection casework department.

And Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed said: “When Dominic Raab stood up in the House of Commons and demanded the Parole Board reconsider the decision to release Tracey Connelly, he didn’t tell us his department had agreed to her release in the
first place.

“The sheer hypocrisy of it stinks. The British public will be alarmed about Raab’s plans to take more control over prisoner releases after his flip-flopping in this most notorious of cases. Raab talks tough but this shows yet again he and this Conservative Government are soft to the core on crime.”

A Government source said: “If Raab feels so strongly, why didn’t he ensure his representative at the hearing was aware of his feelings about the risk Connelly posed? Why did he not do everything in his power to oppose the decision? Given the high level of public interest, you’d have thought he’d be all over it.

“It appears he’s dropped the ball and is now chasing populist headlines in a bid to salvage the situation.”

Tracey Connelly, the mother of baby P, leaving the women's bail hostel 'Edith Rigby House,' in Preston Lancashire, after her release from prison.
Tracey Connelly, the mother of baby P, leaving the women’s bail hostel ‘Edith Rigby House,’ in Preston Lancashire, after her release from prison.

It is not the first time Raab has faced flak over delegated responsibility. There was uproar when a whistleblower said the then foreign secretary allowed junior staff to make “life or death” decisions about last year’s evacuation from Afghanistan.

He was slated for not immediately returning from holiday in Greece to help manage the unfolding crisis last August.

Now, following the Baby P blunder, it is understood his advisers plan to write to the Parole Board to clarify his feelings.

Opposition from the Justice Secretary is not an automatic barrier to a prisoner’s release but carries significant weight when a decision is made.

Undated Metropolitan Police handout photo of Steven Barker, partner of Tracey Connelly, the mother of abused toddler Baby Peter Connelly.
Steven Barker, partner of Tracey Connelly, the mother of abused toddler Baby Peter Connelly.

Connelly, 40, and her accomplices were convicted of causing or allowing the death of her son.

In a case which shocked the nation, the tot was found in a blood-splattered cot at home in Haringey, north London, having sustained 50 injuries over eight months.

Despite 60 visits, social workers never attempted to remove Peter from his mum’s care.

Connelly was handed an indeterminate sentence and was released in 2013. But she was recalled to jail in 2015 after breaching the terms of her license by selling naked pictures of herself.

Connelly’s parole hearing – her fourth since being recalled to prison – took place on March 15 and 16 via video. It is understood a victim impact statement was delivered by at least one person still affected by the case.

Jason Owen, who was jailed over the death of Baby P, is back in prison after breaching his bail conditions.
Jason Owen, who was jailed over the death of Baby P, is back in prison after breaching his bail conditions.

Ministers do not normally attend parole hearings but are allowed to do so if they want to observe a
particular case.

A report on the hearing said: “Witnesses supported Ms Connelly’s release and the Secretary of State’s representative confirmed that this recommendation was accepted.”

News that Connelly would be recommended for release coincided with Raab’s announcement on a raft of parole reforms.

Future decisions to release anyone convicted of murder, rape, terrorism, or causing or allowing the death of a child would need to be approved by a justice minister.

A second source claimed Raab was only told of the contents of the report as he was preparing to outline the review.

The source added: “The job was delegated to someone who is not particularly high ranking and Raab found out on Wednesday like everyone else.”

Barker, who was cleared of murder, is serving a life term. Owen got a minimum three years but returned to jail briefly in 2013 after a parole breach.

He is believed to be living under a new identity.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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