Appeal possible on Baby P sentences

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The Independent Online

The Attorney General is to consider whether the sentences handed down in the Baby P case were "unduly lenient", her office said today.

Baroness Scotland could appeal against the jail terms given to the three people to blame for baby Peter's death.

Children's charity the NSPCC, which earlier said it was "disappointed" with the sentences, urged her to refer the case to the Court of Appeal "without delay".

Peter was 17 months old when he was found dead in a blood-spattered cot in Haringey, north London, in August 2007 having suffered a broken back and fractured ribs.

His mother, 27, was given an indefinite sentence with a minimum term of five years at the Old Bailey last week after pleading guilty to causing or allowing her son's death.

Judge Stephen Kramer described her as "manipulative" and "calculating" while rejecting her claim that she was too naive to realise what was going on in her house.

Her boyfriend, 32, was jailed for life with a minimum of 10 years for raping a two-year-old girl.

He was also given a 12-year term to run concurrently for his "major role" in Peter's death.

The couple's lodger, Jason Owen, 37, of Bromley, south-east London, received an indefinite sentence with a minimum term of three years for failing to take steps to save the little boy.

NSPCC director of public policy Phillip Noyes said: "All child deaths are shocking.

"The death of baby Peter followed a horrific and appalling sequence of injuries and neglect. This case is as bad as they get.

"For the sake of baby Peter, and for the sake of children who are alive today and whose care teeters on the brink, this case should be referred to the Court of Appeal without delay."

A spokesman for Baroness Scotland said: "We have called for the papers in this case since the Attorney General has the power to refer certain sentences to the Court of Appeal for review if, after looking at all the facts, she thinks the sentence was unduly lenient.

"Within this power, the Attorney General can look at minimum tariffs imposed on life and indeterminate-sentence prisoners.

"However, it is important to understand that such prisoners are not released automatically after the minimum term has been served - they are only released when the independent parole board is satisfied that their continued detention is no longer necessary to protect the public."

The Attorney General has 28 days from the sentence date to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: "We welcome the news that the Attorney General plans to review the sentencing in the Baby P case.

"The offence was only created a few years ago and so it is important to ensure that it is working in practice."