Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Ex-West Midlands crime commissioner says more children 'at risk' after 'lethal cocktail' of officer shortages and pandemic 'allowed neglect to happen'

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  • Thomas Hughes
    English lawyer, author and cricketer (1822-1896)

A "lethal cocktail" of police officer and social worker shortages, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, "allowed neglect to happen," the former West Midlands police and crime commissioner has said about the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

The six-year-old boy from Solihull, West Midlands, was abused, neglected and killed by his father, Thomas Hughes, and his stepmother, Emma Tustin.

Tustin was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison and Hughes was jailed for 21 years after being convicted of manslaughter.

Speaking to Sky News, David Jamieson, who was the West Midlands police and crime commissioner at the time of Arthur's death in June 2020, said: "Clearly he was let down, you couldn't really say otherwise.

"He was let down by his parents, he was let down by his stepmother in the most horrendous way."

Throughout Arthur's case, it has emerged that concerns were raised about his care and welfare, including by his uncle who said he sent police pictures of his nephew's bruises, and by his grandmother who alerted social services.

Two social workers visited Arthur at home last year, but said they had "no safeguarding concerns."

Asked if the child was failed by police, Mr Jamieson said: "I don't know, I don't have the information that would tell me that."

"Firstly, it's the people who were supposed to be looking after him that failed in a catastrophic way. Public services that should be overseeing these things - clearly this boy slipped through the net."

The ex-Labour MP added: "I think we shouldn't be necessarily just pointing blame, we should be saying you know this didn't work out for that boy, what have we got to do in the future to make sure that other boys are little girls don't suffer in the same way?"

When asked about why reports of Arthur's abuse were not followed up, Mr Jamieson discussed how police resources were "stretched" and how austerity had caused a quarter of officers to be lost from the force since 2010.

"I think that we were pulled away from doing the detailed work that we should have done in cases like this," he said.

"Equally, the local council in Solihull and other parts of the West Midlands were being forced to work with fewer resources, fewer social workers and huge caseloads, and I think that together with when the pandemic came along we have seen that as a lethal cocktail if you like, that has allowed neglect to happen."

A national investigation into Arthur's death has been announced and the government has also commissioned an urgent inspection of social care, health, police, and probation services in Solihull, to whom the young boy was known

The former Labour councillor added that he is still concerned about the welfare of other children in the West Midlands.

"Children are at risk because of the stretched resources for children, the ability of police and social services to do the level and quality of the work they would like to do, I think its children that are not in school…. those are profoundly worrying to me," he said.

"That is a major concern for me that we just don't have the mechanism of following this through."

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