Concerns were raised about the mother of Baby P’s capacity to manipulate and deceive during a bid to keep her behind bars for longer.
Papers detailing the reasons for keeping Tracey Connelly in jail, and why the Parole Board stood by its decision to free her, also disclose how she had become embroiled in relationships with fellow inmates and traded secret letters with her most recent lover against prison rules.
According to parole documents, at the time of her crimes, Connelly, then 25, got into relationships quickly, used sex to “help her feel better about herself” and had an “inability to control extreme emotions”. She was also described as “manipulative” and lacking in empathy.
Since being recalled to prison, Connelly has taken part in a “very intensive” treatment programme and is “now able to work openly and honestly with professionals”.
I have carefully considered all of the arguments advanced by the Secretary of State in support of his application, but … cannot find anything in them to justify reconsideration of the panel’s decision
Parole judge Jeremy Roberts QC
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”.
But the Government challenged the decision on grounds including that it failed to take “any, or any proper, account” of factors such as her “willingness to deceive professionals”, her “manipulative capacity”, the “imminence of her risk” and “risk of non-compliance, her relationship with another prisoner and a “recent instance of deception”.
Parole judge Jeremy Roberts QC, who considered the appeal, said: “I have carefully considered all of the arguments advanced by the Secretary of State in support of his application, but … cannot find anything in them to justify reconsideration of the panel’s decision.
“This application is therefore refused and the panel’s provisional decision is now final.”
According to the parole ruling published on Thursday, previous reviews found Connelly had tried to hide a year-long relationship with another prisoner.
By the time of the 2022 hearing, justice officials found she had “clearly” been able to show progress in tackling her “tendency to be dishonest and manipulative” and had “engaged positively and openly with professionals”.
A prison psychologist said Connelly was “better prepared for release” than before and believed professionals would be able to “spot warning signs” while an official who had known her for seven years told of the “positive changes” she had observed in her “attitude, behaviour and thinking”.
Meanwhile, her prison supervisor said Connelly “understood the need to be open and honest and to keep a low profile in the community”, the ruling said.
But in the Government’s challenge, it warned that since the last review there had been a “further incident which very clearly demonstrates a willingness to deceive professionals, namely the sending of letters in violation of the prison rules and the content of those communications, which evidences an attempt by [the respondent] to keep her relationship with another prisoner under the radar so as not to damage her prospects with the Parole Board. The fact that that letter was written after the Parole Board review had commenced is highly material.”
The parole documents said she had disclosed the “intimate relationship with another prisoner” to staff at the “earliest reasonable opportunity” which was in “marked contrast to her previous failures to disclose such relationships”.
The latest tryst, which began in June last year, was short lived. The pair kissed “within days” of developing feelings and Connelly agreed to end it after disclosing the relationship to staff.
But the pair continued their romance and would “push letters under the doors of their cells”, against prison rules. Once discovered, they were banned from seeing each other.
According to one of the messages intercepted, despite the relationship having only lasted a few weeks, Connelly told the other inmate “I madly love you” while also being “dismissive” and “rude” about staff.
One official suggested the behaviour was down to “pure frustration” amid coronavirus pandemic lockdown restrictions.
The ruling said there was “no doubt” the episode “revealed another example of the respondent being less than open and honest with professionals” and “any reading of the letter indicates concerns about deceptive behaviour” but there was “strong evidence to show that she was willing to reflect on her position and that she was willing to listen to advice”.
“The [terms of the] letter [are] perhaps of some concern, although, on balance, the panel accepted that it was more likely produced at a time of frustration and was not a true reflection of [the prisoner’s] thinking”, it added.