On August 3rd 2007, Peter Connelly, a 17-month old child lay dead in his blood spattered cot. He was found to have more than 50 injuries to his little body, including a broken back, broken ribs and a broken tooth, having been systematically abused throughout his short life.
In May 2009, his mother, Tracey Connelly, having been found guilty of “causing or allowing his death”, was handed an indefinite jail term with a minimum of five years. Her boyfriend, Steven Barker was given a 12-year sentence for his part in Peter’s death, to run concurrently with a 10-year sentence for raping a two-year-old girl. Jason Owen, Barker’s brother, was given a six-year sentence.
The case caused much soul-searching in the British media, the social services and the police. Opportunities to spot the abuse and take action had apparently been missed, and so three inquiries and a nationwide review of social service care were launched. The Head of Children’s Services at Haringey, Sharon Shoesmith, was sacked; Council leader George Meehan and councillor Liz Santry resigned; and the council’s deputy director of children’s services, two other managers and a social worker were also dismissed.
But despite the handwringing and the assurances that everything would be done to stop this kind of thing happening again, here we are, little after four years since the prosecution of the three adults involved in the case, and Tracey Connelly is about to be released from prison on parole. Four years? So is that how much our society thinks Peter Connelly’s life was worth?
You see she was found guilty of “causing or allowing the death of a child”, and sentenced indefinitely until “deemed no longer to be a risk to the public and in particular to small children”. So presumably the parole board deem that she is “no longer a risk to the public and in particular to small children.”
Anyone who yearns for justice and righteousness must find this utterly abhorrent, for the following reasons:
1. How do the parole board know that Tracey Connelly is no longer “a risk to the public and in particular to small children?” Are they able to read hearts? Can they guarantee this for us? Here is a simple test for them that they might like to use ahead of their psychiatric tests into her mental wellbeing and how “good” she has been in prison: would any of them be happy to recommend Tracey Connelly as a baby sitter? If not why not?
2. Whether she is a danger or not is irrelevant to what justice is. I might commit a one-off crime and then have no intention of committing any more. Does that mean that I shouldn’t be properly punished for the crime I have committed, since I no longer pose a danger? Of course not, but then our modern lawless state has not the faintest idea what justice is. Justice is punishing the guilty adequately for the crimes they have committed. It is not about psychologically assessing them for crimes they might commit and then releasing them on the basis of what we think they are now like.
3. Connelly, Barker and Owen either carried out some of the pain inflicted on this poor innocent boy, or they stood by and watched while others did so, not lifting a finger to stop it. At least one or perhaps all of them got away with murder, being charged with the rather pathetically titled “causing or allowing the death of a child.” This law was introduced into Britain in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, as a way of getting around difficulties posed by child abuse cases, where it is sometimes impossible to ascertain which parent delivered the final blow.
However, a righteous nation would not need such a law. It would know what to do. In a case where a tiny child had suffered torture leading to multiple injuries over a period of many months, where there were three adults living in the house throughout that period, and where none of those adults had lifted a finger to save the child, a righteous nation would hold all three guilty of that child’s death, regardless of “who delivered the fatal blow”. And there is only one appropriate sentence for that.