Why its right that Baby P’s mother should be released

tracey_connolly

CONVERSE LEADER: TRACEY CONNOLLY MOTHER OF BABY P TO BE RELEASED.

It is absolutely right that the mother of Peter Connolly “Baby P” should be released.

We have an independent Judiciary – one that is able to rise above public opinion, media witch-hunting and political rhetoric.

The Judge in this case sat through this horrific trial listened to all of the evidence and then imposed a sentence which was correct in both fact and law – and that is not just Converse saying that, it is a view shared by the then Attorney General Baroness Scotland QC.

One month after the sentences in this case were imposed the then Attorney General reviewed the case and the sentences with a view to exercising her powers of referring the case to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the sentences were ‘unduly lenient’; she refused to do so.

She explained her decision at the time by saying she had reviewed the case papers, the law and the relevant sentencing guidelines before deciding against referring their tariffs to the Court of Appeal.

She said: “It was clear to me that the judge, who had heard all of the evidence, fully appreciated the gravity of these terrible offences and took into account all of the relevant factors…

“I believe that the sentences fall within the range that it was reasonable for the judge to have imposed and there is no realistic prospect that the Court of Appeal would increase the sentences if I referred them.”

In addition to an independent Judiciary we also have an independent Parole Board in England and Wales – and its a fair bet that some of those on that Board shared the view that a five-year minimum tariff was too short – but there was nothing they or anyone else could do about it.

It is not for the Parole Board to substitute by the back door of release their view of what the sentence should have been, that was a matter for the judge and rightly so.

Last year the Parole Board rejected her application for parole – but this year they were faced with evidence which caused them to make a different decision.

Every member of the Parole Board who considered this case would have been acutely aware of the notoriety of this case and the media backlash which would inevitably have followed any decision to release – and rightly they rose above that and based their decision not on fear but evidence.

They were faced with a parole application from a prisoner who had completed the minimum tariff – the only reason for continued detention was on the basis of risk – and all the evidence they had said that risk of reofffending was low.

Tracey Connolly had been a model prisoner, she had engaged with all of the offending behaviour programmes that were required of her and achieved success in all of them. Prison Officers, Probation Officers and Psychologists who had professionally assessed her concluded that release was justified and that is what they told the Parole Board – had the Parole Board ignored that and insisted on continued detention that decision would have been quashed by the High Court on the basis that it was irrational.

Tracey Connolly will be released in two or three weeks – but she’s on licence for the rest of her life and can be recalled to prison at a moment’s notice if her  behaviour should give cause for concern – over 11,000 prisoners were recalled to prison in the last 12 months, the majority of whom had not committed further offences – including her own co-defendant Jason Owen.

Justice demands fairness, blind to ignorance, deaf to prejudice and rising above public opinion driven as it is by the media and emotion.

It has brought us a justice system the envy of the world – and rightly so.

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