How Dominic Raab is trying to prevent the release of Britain’s most serious criminals

Who has the power to release criminals from prison?

The 246 members of the Parole Board of England and Wales make risk assessments and decisions on whether prisoners can be safely released or moved to an open jail. 

What power does Dominic Raab have and can the Parole Board decision be overturned?

While the initial decision to release prisoners is made by the Parole Board, the Justice Secretary can apply to have a verdict reconsidered if he believes ‘the correct process was not followed’ or ‘the decision was irrational or unreasonable’. 

Nevertheless, the Parole Board says it considers cases carefully so it would be unusual for a decision to change. 

If a parole decision is not challenged within 21 calendar days it becomes final and the prisoner must be released.

How does he want to reform the system? 

The plans could see ministers override the Parole Board when it comes to the release of dangerous criminals from jail, with an aim to focus on protecting the public rather than the rights of offenders. 

This could include cases involving murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Similarly, where the Parole Board cannot confidently say the prisoner is safe to leave prison, they will refer the decision to the Justice Secretary.

While victims will not have a definitive say in the decision to release, they will be given the chance to attend hearings as an observer and ask questions, while the board will be required to take their submissions into account. 

Currently, victims are limited to a statement shared with the board explaining how the crime impacted on their life.

A relative of tragic Baby P has questioned the release of his abusive mother Tracey Connelly, asking: ‘When will these people learn evil is evil?’

The 40-year-old, who was jailed over the death of her 17-month-old son Peter, found out yesterday she’d been successful in her fourth bid for freedom and could be back on the streets within weeks.

Connelly had been imprisoned indefinitely with a minimum term of five years in 2009 for causing or allowing her son’s death.

Peter, who was publicly known as Baby P, died in north London in August 2007 at the hands of his mother, her lover Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen.

He suffered more than 50 injuries, including a snapped spine and eight broken ribs, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over the final eight months of his life.

Yesterday, the Parole Board found she did not pose a threat to the public and gave the green light for her release – though Justice Secretary Dominic Raab vowed to try and block the move.

Now, a relative of the tragic toddler has also spoken out, telling the Sun: ‘Connelly gets chance after chance.

‘When will these people learn evil is evil? She’s fooled them before and fooled them again.’ 

Mr Raab, who told the Commons he would ask the Parole Board to reconsider the decision, doubled down on his remarks again today, insisting he will do ‘all I can’ to stop Britain’s most notorious offenders being freed.

‘Releasing her was the wrong call then and it still is now,’ he wrote in the Sun. 

‘Decisions to free serious criminals like her, double child killer Colin Pitchfork and rapist John Worboys, undermine public confidence in the Parole Board and the whole criminal justice system.’

Connelly was released in 2013 on a lifelong licence, but recalled to jail in 2015 after she breached its terms by selling nude photographs of herself on the internet.

She was subject to a specific length of term in prison, but had to wait until the Parole Board – which considers cases roughly every two years –  deemed her fit for release.

She had bids for freedom turned down in 2015, 2017, and 2019, when the board refused to release or move her to an open prison. In 2020, she lost another appeal. 

But yesterday, more than seven years after she was recalled to jail, the board found she does not pose a risk to the public, and could therefore be free within weeks.  

In response, Mr Raab said he will apply to the Parole Board asking it to reconsider the plans. 

Tracey Connelly, who was jailed in 2009 following the death of her 17-month-old son Peter, was today told she had been successful in her fourth bid for freedom 

Peter, who was initially named in the press as Baby P, died after suffering more than 50 injuries including a snapped spine and eight broken ribs

Peter, who was initially named in the press as Baby P, died after suffering more than 50 injuries including a snapped spine and eight broken ribs

Baby P: A timeline of the tragedy that shocked Britain 

March 1, 2006: Peter Connelly (Baby P) is born

August 3, 2007: 17-month-old Baby P is found dead in cot

November 11, 2008: Peter’s mother, Tracey Connelly, boyfriend Steven Barker and brother Jason Owen are convicted of causing his death

November 13, 2008: Ed Balls orders an inquiry into the role of the council, health authority and police

December 1, 2008: An independent review declares Haringey’s child protection services ‘inadequate’

December 8, 2008: Haringey Children’s Services boss Sharon Shoesmith is sacked with immediate effect

May 22, 2009: Connelly is jailed indefinitely, Barker gets a life term and Owen is given an indeterminate sentence for public protection

October 7, 2009: Shoesmith launches a High Court case against Balls to seek compensation for her dismissal

September 15, 2010: Shoesmith tells MPs she is sorry about what happened but refuses to accept any blame, saying she had no involvement in the care of Baby P

May 27, 2011: The Court of Appeal rules in favour of Shoesmith, saying her dismissal was ‘tainted by unfairness’

October 8, 2013: Connelly is recommended for release by the Parole Board

February 14, 2015: Connelly is back behind bars after sending nude pictures to male fans

December 29, 2015: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s first bid for freedom

November 28, 2017: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s second bid for freedom 

January 6, 2019: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s third bid for freedom

March 30, 2022: Connelly is recommended for release by the Parole Board 

Mr Raab was backed by Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed, who described the news as ‘disturbing’ and said he ‘fully supports’ efforts to seek a review.  

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’, a 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 support the plan.

Mr Raab was represented throughout the review and his representative ‘confirmed that this recommendation was accepted’, the report said.

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’.

A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: ‘We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Tracey Connelly following an oral hearing.

‘Parole Board 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.

‘Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’ 

The case was so ’emotive’ that parole bosses demanded more information on her psychological assessments before a decision was reached, a source told the Sun.

She would have faced another two years behind bars if the board rejected her bid. 

Peter, who was publicly known as Baby P, died in north London on August 3 2007 at the hands of his mother, her lover Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen.

He suffered more than 50 injuries, which included a snapped spine and eight broken ribs, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, police and health professionals over the final eight months of his life.

Steven Barker was jailed in 2009 for a minimum of 32 years for torturing the 17-month-old to death and Owen received a six year jail sentence for allowing the toddler to die.  

‘Decisions to free serious criminals like her undermine public confidence’, Dominic Raab warns

The Justice Secretary told the Commons yesterday he would ask the Parole Board to reconsider the decision and doubled down on his remarks again today.

Mr Raab has set out the need for wholesale reform of the system to ensure the public are safe from some of the most notorious offenders.

‘Releasing her was the wrong call then and it still is now,’ he wrote in the Sun.

‘Decisions to free serious criminals like her, double child killer Colin Pitchfork and rapist John Worboys, undermine public confidence in the Parole Board and the whole criminal justice system.’

Peter and three other children were sharing the four-bedroom house with their mother, her boyfriend and his brother when he died.

A series of reviews identified missed opportunities for officials to save the toddler’s life had they reacted properly to warning signs. 

Three of the children, including Peter, were on Haringey’s Child Protection Register because of fears they were being neglected.

Connelly, who covered up the abuse of her son, was jailed in 2009 for a minimum of five years after admitting causing or allowing the death of her son Peter.

She was then freed on licence in 2013 but later recalled to prison in 2015 after it was found she had sent indecent images of herself to people obsessed with her notoriety.  

The Parole Board considered her case for a third time in November 2019, following previous reviews in 2015 and 2017, and refused to either release her or move her to an open prison. 

In 2019, the convict launched a bid to be freed from prison so she could try to spend Christmas with her lover.

She became besotted with a 37-year-old insurance salesman named Paul and told fellow prisoners she want to move in with him in Reading.

The abuser said she believed she was ready to leave prison a ‘changed woman’. 

Connelly insisted her relationship was genuine because she had known him for many years. 

Steven Barker

Jason Owen

Baby P, was tortured to death in 2007 by Connelly’s lover Steven Barker (left) and his brother Jason Owen (right) at their home in Tottenham, north London

Connelly, pictured in 2013, when she was released on licence in 2013 before being ordered back to jail

Connelly, pictured in 2013, when she was released on licence in 2013 before being ordered back to jail

Catflap rapist, child killer and sex predators: High profile criminals set free to strike again

 

Black cab rapist John Worboys

The board faced widespread criticism over its handling of the case of the Black Cab rapist – a serial sex offender convicted in 2009 for attacks on 12 women. He was recommended for release in 2018, but just weeks later, the decision was overturned after it was challenged by two of his victims.

 

Double child killer Colin Pitchfork 

Last year the board allowed the release of Pitchfork, who raped and murdered two 15-year-old girls in the 1980s. However, he was recalled to jail less than three months later after he was caught ‘approaching young women’.

 

Christmas Day killer Steven Ling

The farm worker was jailed for life in December 1998 after admitting murdering 29-year-old Joanne Tulip in Stamfordham, Northumberland on Christmas Day 1997. The Parole Board recommended earlier this year that he be transferred to a lower security jail, however this was overruled by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab. 

 

Catflap rapist Paul Robson 

Robson was given two life sentences in August 2000 after he broke into a 23-year-old woman’s house in Oxford through a cat flap and sexually assaulted her while holding a knife to her throat. He fled an open prison in Boston, Lincolnshire earlier this year and was on the loose for four days, which led to the MoJ insisting Mr Raab will have more control over the transfer of prisoners in the most high-risk cases.

Double killer Paul O’Hara 

O’Hara murdered new girlfriend Cherylee Shennan in 2014 two years after he was freed early from a life term for killing his ex Janine Waterworth, whose parents said their protests that he was still dangerous were ignored by the Parole Board. 

Jailmate thugs Stephen Unwin and William McFall 

Stephen Unwin and William McFall, were jailed for raping and murdering a young Vietnamese mother who they had tortured for four hours. They met while serving life for killing OAPs during burglaries. Each was paroled after only 13 years.

Drug addict killer George Johnson  

Long-term drug addict George Johnson killed a hotel worker in 1986 for just £3. Freed in 2006, he battered to death an 89-year-old widow five years later to steal £25 to feed his heroin and crack cocaine habit.

The ‘Devil’s Child’ Damien Hanson 

Damien Hanson murdered a banker in 2004, three months after winning parole. He was seven years into a 12-year term for trying to kill a teenage boy. Known as ‘the Devil’s Child’, he was freed despite a report saying he was a 91 per cent reoffending risk.

Bodybuilding killer Douglas Vinter 

Fitness fan Douglas Vinter knifed his wife Ann White to death after kidnapping her and holding her hostage in 2008. They had married soon after he was freed in 2005 – just ten years into a life sentence for murdering a workmate in a railway cabin.

Pub landlord murderer Ian Simms 

Last year the Parole Board freed murderer Ian Simms, despite his refusal to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of his victim. Clerk Helen McCourt, 22, disappeared on her way home in Merseyside in 1988. Her mother lost a legal bid to keep Simms behind bars but a new rule, known as Helen’s Law, now makes it harder for killers to get parole if they refused to reveal where a victim’s body is.

Today’s decision came as Mr Raab insisted the case for reform of the parole system is ‘clear and made out’. 

Offenders who are subject to life sentences, indeterminate sentences for public protection, extended sentences and certain recall cases are all subject to the parole process, meaning their release must be directed by the Parole Board.

The proposed reforms could see ministers override the Parole Board when it comes to the release of dangerous criminals from jail, with an aim to focus on protecting the public rather than the rights of offenders.

This could include cases involving murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child.

Victims are also expected to be given the right to attend parole hearings in full for the first time, in a nod to the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto.

The Parole Board will now be required to take into account submissions made by victims and they will be allowed to ask questions.

The new rules could also see more police, and other people with ‘enforcement experience’, recruited to sit on Parole Board decision panels.

Mr Raab said it was ‘striking’ that as of last year only 5% of all Parole Board panel members come from a law enforcement background, telling MPs he believed this was a ‘significant deficit’.

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: ‘It’s crucial that public protection is paramount and that victims are right at the heart of the criminal justice system.

‘Currently too many victims feel their views are not taken sufficiently into account either in parole decisions or in sentencing and this leads directly to public safety concerns that must be taken more seriously.’

Setting out his review of the parole system, Mr Raab said: ‘Our reforms will ensure that those offenders who present the highest risk to public safety are reviewed more rigorously with additional ministerial oversight. 

‘Protecting the public is the Government’s top priority. The proposals in this review will enforce public safety.’

He added: ‘Following the review we have conducted and published today, I believe the case for reform is clear and made out.’ 

Mr Raab also said a ministerial check would be introduced in cases which involve ‘those who have committed the most serious crimes’.

He said: ‘I believe the focus in this critical decision-making has become adrift from its original moorings. So this Government will anchor Parole Board decision-making back to the cardinal principle of public protection.

‘When it comes to assessing the risk to victims and public safety, we will introduce a precautionary principle to reinforce public confidence in the system and in cases which involve those who have committed the most serious crimes, we will introduce a ministerial check on release decisions exercised by the secretary of state for justice.

‘The package of reforms published today will strengthen the focus on public protection at every stage.’

Outlining his plans further, Mr Raab said: ‘It is striking that as of last year only 5% of all Parole Board panel members come from a law enforcement background.’

He added: ‘But I do point to what I believe is a significant deficit. I believe it is wrong and that our reforms will ensure that those who we charge with making finely balanced assessments of future risk have greater first hand operational experience of protecting the public from serious offenders. 

‘So we will change this imbalance by mandating the Parole Board to recruit more members with operational or enforcement experience.’

Shadow justice secretary Mr Reed said: ‘It’s crucial that public protection is paramount and that victims are right at the heart of the criminal justice system. 

‘Currently too many victims feel their views are not taken sufficiently into account either in parole decisions or in sentencing and this leads directly to public safety concerns that must be taken more seriously.

‘Labour will put public safety at the core of our contract with the British people, sadly the same can’t be said of this Government.’

He added: ‘Labour wants victims to have a right to make a new personal statement saying how they would feel if the prisoner is released. 

‘We would like any assessment of the risk to the public to include the risk of re-traumatising their victim and prevent released prisoners from living near their victim if that’s against the victim’s wishes.’

Living with killers: The little boy who never stood a chance 

Tracey Connelly, who covered up the abuse of her son Baby Peter, was living with Steven Barker and Jason Owen when little Peter died.

Barker was a sadistic neo-Nazi who raped a two-year-old girl, tortured his own grandmother and is suspected of sex attacks on other children.

Their ‘lodger’ and his brother Owen was a crack cocaine addict and convicted arsonist who was accused of raping a girl of 11.

The full horror of what they put Peter through only emerged after he was found dead in his cot, his emaciated body covered with 22 separate injuries.

At the time of his death, Peter and three other children were sharing a four-bedroom house with Connelly, her boyfriend Barker, his paedophile brother Owen and his four children, plus Owen’s 15-year-old girlfriend.

Three of the children – including Peter – were on Haringey’s Child Protection Register because of fears they were being neglected.

Social workers, health visitors and doctors saw the family 60 times before 17-month-old Peter died from his horrific injuries, which included a snapped spine and eight broken ribs.

Parole shake-up will give ministers power to BLOCK prison release of UK’s worst criminals

Ministers will get new powers to veto the release of Britain’s most heinous criminals, under plans unveiled today to reform the parole system.

And victims will be able to take part in Parole Board hearings for the first time.

Murderers, rapists, terrorists and violent criminals convicted of causing a child’s death will be forced to stay in jail until their release is signed off by ministers.

The plans will grant Justice Secretary Dominic Raab the final say on the release of about 660 offenders a year. 

Victims will get rights to attend Parole Board hearings in full and ask questions. 

They will also be entitled to receive more detailed information from the board’s officials.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will be able to prevent particularly dangerous criminals from being released with new powers that are set to be introduced

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will be able to prevent particularly dangerous criminals from being released with new powers that are set to be introduced

The measures will shake up the way the board operates, tipping the balance away from criminals’ rights and more in favour of victims and protecting the public.

Parole Board officials will be told their ‘only priority’ will be making sure a prisoner poses no risk to the public.

And, in a victory for openness, parole hearings will also be opened to the Press for the first time, Mr Raab pledged.

If successful, the proposals could mark a turning point after decades of ‘progressive’ policies chipping away at the principles of law and order. 

The Parole Board’s critics claim it is packed with ‘do-gooders’ who are too sympathetic towards criminals ‘rights’.

Mr Raab said: ‘Keeping the public safe is government’s first duty, and the British people expect us to keep dangerous criminals behind bars for as long as necessary to protect them. 

‘I am not satisfied our approach is as robust as it needs to be.’

Dozens of killers, rapists and paedophiles released from prison have gone on to get second life sentences after committing another serious crime.

The board faced widespread criticism over its handling of the case of Black Cab rapist John Worboys – a serial sex offender convicted in 2009 for attacks on 12 women. 

A decision to release him was overturned after a legal challenge.

Last year the board allowed the release of Colin Pitchfork, who raped and murdered two 15-year-old girls in the 1980s. 

He was recalled to jail less than three months later after displaying ‘concerning behaviour’.

Dominic Raab sets out plans for Parole Board reform as he vows to ‘enforce public safety’ amid plans to block release of Baby P’s mother

Dominic Raab set out plans to overhaul the parole system today as he vowed to ‘enforce public safety’.

The Justice Secretary said the case for reform of the process is ‘clear and made out’ as he proposed to take back powers so ministers could block dangerous criminals being freed from jail.

The shake-up comes after public outcry at the decision to release double child killer Colin Pitchfork from jail and the London taxi driver rapist John Worboys.

Mr Raab also announced his intention to block the release of Baby P’s mother Tracey Connelly, after a Parole Board decided she was fit to be freed from prison.

The proposed reforms could see ministers override the Parole Board when it comes to the release of dangerous criminals from jail, with an aim to focus on protecting the public rather than the rights of offenders. 

This could include cases involving murder, rape, terrorism and causing or allowing the death of a child. Victims are also expected to be given the right to attend parole hearings in full for the first time, in a nod to the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto. 

The Parole Board will now be required to take into account submissions made by victims and they will be allowed to ask questions. 

The new rules could also see more police, and other people with ‘enforcement experience’, recruited to sit on Parole Board decision panels. 

Mr Raab said it was ‘striking’ that as of last year only 5% of all Parole Board panel members come from a law enforcement background, telling MPs he believed this was a ‘significant deficit’. 

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: ‘It’s crucial that public protection is paramount and that victims are right at the heart of the criminal justice system. 

‘Currently too many victims feel their views are not taken sufficiently into account either in parole decisions or in sentencing and this leads directly to public safety concerns that must be taken more seriously.’



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