'Baby P' Mother to be released on parole

'Baby P' Mother to be released on parole

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The BBC (and all the newspapers that we have seen – the Mirror for example) did public understanding of sentencing a disservice in their coverage of the hearing of the Parole Board that directed the release of Tracey Connelly, the mother of ‘Baby P’ from custody.

At this stage, news reports are pretty scant. What will leave some people scratching their head is this line (variants of which appeared on other websites) – Ms Connelly “was jailed indefinitely, with a recommended minimum term of five years in May 2009“.

Five years from May 2009 is May 2014. So how come can she be released before then? Is this an indication that sentencing law in England is very, very silly?

‘No’ is the short answer. What has happened here is an example of the press not reporting things properly. Ms Connelly received a sentence of IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection). We have a separate factsheet on how these operate, but, in brief, the Judge concluded that Ms Connelly was a potential danger to the public and could only be released when it was safe to do so.

He had to fix a ‘minimum term’ and this would have been calculated as being half the determinate sentence that otherwise would have been imposed (in this case 10 years). From that, he would have deducted any time spent on remand. In this case we have the sentencing remarks (thanks to Neil Powell for pointing them out!). We can see that Ms Connelly spent 644 days (1 year, 279 days) on remand before she was sentenced. This means that her actual tariff would have been 3 years and 86 days. This would mean that the earliest date she could have been released was about 1st August 2012. She has actually stayed in prison ‘over tariff’ by more than a  year.

So, is the justice system bonkers? No. This all makes sense. It’s just sloppy reporting that misleads the public.

Note : Thanks to Neil for pointing that out – we had originally used the Court of Appeal judgment in the case of one of Ms Connelly’s co-defendants, Jason Owen (you can read that judgment here) which is still worth reading.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Poor reporting as always, and as soon as I saw people moaning about the “maths” of 5 years from May 2009 I knew it had to be minus time on remand

    Sentencing notes are here:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/22_05_09_sentencing_remarks_baby_p.pdf

    Relevant section is page 16, paragraph 32

    “Accordingly, I order that the minimum term to be
    served to reflect the requirements of punishment and deterrence shall be 5
    years, less time spent in custody awaiting sentence, agreed to be 644 days”

  2. Thanks – I hope all the journalists read it before they write – but know the wont.

    there is a serious issue about folk being released in a blaze of publicity – we need a public judicial system but know as a former probation officer that what the media does sometimes is more detrimental to rehabilitation than the original conviction and sentence.

    Then there is the fact that she will be subject to Supervision from the probation service (I anticipate her case is the sort that will eventually go to the new privatised firms because it is doubtful she presents a continuing high risk of causing harm or reoffending). Maybe the fact that there is still a long way to go before her sentence is served will be another blog.

    I have been out of probation since for 10 years and IPP sentences have been amended in that time so I am not sure how the supervision arrangements work – I think they go on for at least 10 years – but there are different categories of IPP.

    http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/sentencing/indeterminate-prison-sentences.htm

    http://www.justice.gov.uk/offenders/types-of-offender/life

  3. Can a newspaper be found to have incited public hatred or incited a breach of the peace (i am not a lawyer) by publishing photographs identifying the very distinctive mother of Baby P and and vising readers of where she shops, what her criminal convictions are, such as in this Daily Mail article:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2512908/Baby-Ps-mother-pictured-taking-stroll-park-weeks-release-prison.html
    It seems to me that many people could believe that the newspaper is encouraging them to ‘find the criminal’ – for what purposes one can only speculate – or am I reading to much into this article?

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