Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Tuesday, 11 August 2009 13:44 UK

A protected life for Baby P pair?

By Tom Warren
BBC News

Tracey Connelly
Tracey Connelly could be eligible for parole in just over three years

Taxpayers could face the "abhorrent" prospect of paying to protect Baby Peter's mother from vigilantes when she is released from prison, an MP says.

The risk of attacks means Tracey Connelly and her partner Steven Barker may need new identities, paid for accommodation and round-the-clock protection.

Connelly, 28, and Barker, 33, who caused or allowed Peter's death by subjecting him to a catalogue of physical abuse, have now been named after a court anonymity order expired.

Like Maxine Carr, the schoolboy killers of James Bulger or Mary Bell, who killed two boys when she was just 11 - all granted protection orders - Connelly is set to become one of the UK's most notorious figures.

During the trial it emerged that she knew of the appalling treatment Barker was meting out to her son, which left him with 50 injuries including fractured ribs and a broken back.

She repeatedly misled social services about the extent of the toddler's suffering, smearing Peter's body with chocolate spread and nappy cream to disguise bruises and lesions.

Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, whose constituency covers part of Haringey where Peter died, said the public would be "completely incensed" if Connelly, Barker and his brother Jason Owen, who also caused or allowed the toddler's death, were released after their minimum terms and given new identities.

Of course it doesn't seem fair because Baby Peter has no life at all. But in the kind of society we've created, what's the alternative?
Claude Knights, Kidscape

"Whatever it costs, the thing that would incense people beyond belief is if they get out early. The idea that she [Connelly] would come out in three years would be abhorrent."

But Ms Featherstone said the trio should get help to stop them being attacked or killed, however much it repulsed people.

Harry Fletcher, from probation officers' union Napo, admitted the three could need help to prevent vigilante attacks.

"We may in the future have to put in place protection schemes and possibly new identities so that they are not attacked.

"I know that will be unpopular with the public but the police, probation and prisons have a duty of care to everybody, no matter how heinous the crimes."

Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said providing new identities, housing, financial support and protection would be a "huge cost" to the taxpayer.

Steven Barker
Barker repeatedly abused Peter

"We have a system when once someone is released they are back in the community and where there are vigilante fears they are given help. The alternative is to keep someone in [jail] for life.

"Of course it doesn't seem fair because Baby Peter has no life at all. But in the kind of society we've created, what's the alternative?

"I do have concerns that anyone who has committed this level of atrocity, it should then cost every single person in the country a lot of money, when I think of how much money is needed to improve our child protection services.

"When a mother abuses her child or allows someone else to abuse her child the crime is even more astonishingly horrific.

"It's almost [seen as] a huge crime against humanity. Society's need for retribution seems to be stronger in these cases."

Harry Fletcher, Napo: "We have a system where people are named in all circumstances"

The moral dilemma over how to treat criminals whose actions have entered the wider public consciousness, stretches back through the ages, according to Bristol University Prof Ronald Hutton, who specialises in the early modern period.

"I think there are different morality systems clashing here.

"There is a feeling that someone who has committed crimes which harm children should be punished in some sense by the community and that ordinary people should be able to express their feelings directly.

"If you are someone who destroys your own child then you are a monster of a different kind.

"Against that is the fact we are a nation with a fixed set of legal penalties.

"Those who believe that the justice system should be redemptive would point out that almost no expense should be spared."

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