Baby P: Lodger Jason Owen wins appeal over indefinite sentence

ONE of the three people jailed over the death of Baby P won an appeal against his indefinite sentence today.

Jason Owen, 37, was originally given an indeterminate sentence for public protection – with a minimum term of three years – at the Old Bailey in May.

But three judges in the Court of Appeal in London allowed his appeal against the indefinite term of imprisonment, and replaced it with a sentence of six years imprisonment.

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Owen, of Bromley, Kent, was jailed along with Baby Peter's mother Tracey Connelly, 28, of Penshurst Road, Tottenham, north London, and her boyfriend Steven Barker, 33, for causing or allowing the death of the 17-month-old.

Owen was not present in court for the ruling.

Owen – who is Barker's brother but changed his name after the child's death – had been staying at Peter's home with his 15-year-old girlfriend.

His QC, Tim Roberts, argued that an indefinite sentence in Owen's case was "wrong in principle" as there was no evidence he posed a significant risk of future serious harm to members of the public.

Lord Justice Hughes, quashing the indeterminate sentence, said: "His present offence is deeply unpleasant because a completely innocent child who he could have protected was not protected by him against harm by others.

"He displays a willingness to deceive ...which is unattractive, but to translate that into a significant risk that he will himself in the future commit offences involving death or serious personal injury to the public is ... simply a step too far."

Lord Justice Hughes said the important issue was "whether there was a demonstrated risk of future death or serious injury at his hands" – that is what had to be shown to justify the imposition of an indeterminate sentence, which was "akin to a life sentence".

It emerged yesterday that Peter's mother, who was jailed indefinitely with a minimum term of five years, had dropped an appeal bid against her sentence which was expected to be heard today along with Owen's case.

Peter Connelly was found dead in a blood-spattered cot in August 2007.

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He had more than 50 injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken back, despite being on the at-risk register and receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over eight months.

A sentence of 12 years was handed out to Barker, who was told he had played a major role in Peter's death.

He was also jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years after being convicted of raping a two-year-old girl.

His appeal against the rape conviction is due to be heard by the Court of Appeal on November 24.

Barker and Owen were convicted by a jury of causing or allowing the death of a child at a trial last November, while the mother earlier pleaded guilty to the charge.

The 289 days Owen spent in custody on remand will count towards his sentence.

Lord Justice Hughes said Baby Peter had suffered a "distressing catalogue" of injuries.

It had been "impossible" in the end for the jury to resolve the question of who had inflicted them and no defendant was convicted of either murder or manslaughter.

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The judge said: "Whatever may have been the position so far as the mother and the boyfriend are concerned, and they are not before us, the case against this applicant was, at least by the end of this long trial, a case of alleged neglect and failure to protect and not of any physical violence."

Owen had failed to "do something about what was happening to the child at the hands of someone else".

He added: "Sadly, a complete lack of care was ingrained in this household and this defendant did nothing about it."

The judge, sitting with Mr Justice Mackay and Mr Justice Tomlinson, said: "It does not seem to us that to say that this man failed to protect Peter – as to his shame he undoubtedly did – means that there is not just some, but a significant risk that he will occasion death or serious personal injury to somebody in the future."

He said: "Some risk of serious harm is not the test. If it were there would be an enormous number of defendants who would need to be in prison indefinitely. The test is the existence of a significant risk – enough to warrant a sentence which may never end."

Owen, described as having a "feckless and irresponsible outlook on life", had no history of violence.