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Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Attorney General to review jail sentences of couple behind killing

·6-min read
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Attorney General to review jail sentences of couple behind killing

The jail sentences of the couple who killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes are to be reviewed, the Attorney General has confirmed.

Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 29 years at Coventry Crown Court on Friday after being found guilty of torturing and murdering her stepson.

Tustin, 32, repeatedly banged Arthur’s head on a hard surface in the hours leading up to his death, after she and 29-year-old Thomas Hughes, the child’s father, carried out a campaign of abuse, including starvation and then force-feeding him food covered in salt.

Mr Hughes was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter after encouraging the “evil” killing.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) confirmed on Saturday afternoon that the sentences are to be reviewed to “determine whether they were too low”.

The AGO has 28 days from the date of sentence to review a case, assess whether it falls under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, and make a decision as to whether to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal.

It comes after Solihull MP Julian Knight, who laid flowers at the shrine for Arthur, revealed that he plans to lobby for longer sentences for the “evil monsters”.

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Knight said: “We need to get to the bottom of how this happened and we need to ensure that those who have failed him are accountable. But also, I think anyone reflecting on those sentences yesterday thinks they were too lenient.

“My intention is to refer this to the Unduly Lenient Sentencing scheme as soon as possible. And I will be doing that on Monday morning.”

During the sentencing, the judge said Arthur had been, at the time Tustin was introduced into his life, a “healthy, happy young boy”.

But less than three months after moving in with Tustin at the start of the first national lockdown, the little boy was left “broken” from exposure to a campaign of “acute or prolonged abuse,” he said.

Tustin was also convicted of two counts of child cruelty, including salt-poisoning and withholding food and drink from Arthur.

She had admitted two other cruelty counts, wilfully assaulting Arthur on three occasions and isolating him, including by forcing him to stand in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day as part of a draconian punishment regime.

The judge said anyone could have seen the boy’s responses were a “cry for help from a deeply unhappy child”, whom Tustin was, by then, deliberately starving and refusing water.

And he told Hughes, who had claimed in evidence he only realised after Arthur’s death how abusive his own behaviour was, that these were “self-serving lies”.

He said Tustin made a “calculated” decision to kill, adding: “I am sure that at the moment you launched this attack on him you intended that he should die.”

“You are a manipulative woman who will tell any lie, and shift the blame onto anyone, to save your own skin,” he added.

“You wanted Thomas Hughes so he could provide for you and your own children but did not want to be troubled by Arthur any longer.”

It came as experts said Arthur Labinjo-Hughes should have been top a priority for the social services.

Wendy Thorogood, director of the Association of Child Protection Professionals, said the murder of Arthur, whose body was found to be covered in 130 bruises, was a “society responsibility”.

She told Times Radio: “He should (have been at the top of social services’ priority list) and you would have expected them to actually look at his history, but unfortunately they go on what they see at that moment in time.

“I can’t comment on what they actually witnessed but you have to remember he was at the hands of quite cruel people who could manipulate him, his environment and professionals.

“I would have expected any assessment to really take account of the grandmother’s photos, I would have expected to have conversations … with Arthur, and that appears to have been missed.”

Ms Thorogood said that Arthur was not getting “additional” oversight from school and education as the incident took place during the coronavirus lockdown.

She added: “I feel they took probably the assessment he was out happy, playing, a boy being boisterous.

“I would have expected any bruises that had been shown would have actually been shared with health to actually have a view as well as to where the injury was.

“The biggest thing is to actually speak with the child and I can’t say whether or not that actually happened.

“Equally, it’s a society responsibility, in relation to his cries were so abnormal if we’d had an anonymous call from one of the neighbours that could have given them more power to do the investigation.

“He wasn’t on a child protection list, he wasn’t one of the children that you would have considered to be a priority.”

Lord Laming, who led the public inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie and reviewed the case of baby Peter Connelly, said social workers must be properly trained and supported.

The peer also warned the financial cuts of the past decade had taken their toll.

It came as football fans applauded during the sixth minute of the West Ham vs Chelsea game as a picture of Arthur was shown on a screen.

More tributes will be paid by local football clubs Aston Villa and Birmingham City during the weekend.

Ex-children’s minister Tim Loughton said “we” all have a “duty” to make sure other vulnerable children are not let down by social care in the same way as Arthur.

“Funding for children’s social care has lagged behind and social workers are overstretched and undervalued, when in truth they should be revered as our fourth emergency service,” the Tory MP wrote in The Sun.

“Early interventions to stop the causes of safeguarding problems have been diluted to late interventions to firefight symptoms.

“This is a false economy where in this case a child paid with his life. We all have an interest in putting this right urgently and a duty to make sure it is.”

Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership launched an independent review after it emerged in court the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said ministers will leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong in the “appalling” case.

Speaking during a by-election campaign visit in north Shropshire, Mr Johnson said: “It is early days, but I can tell you this, we will leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case.”

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he would be making a statement on the case to Parliament on Monday.

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