Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Review into whether sentences of boy’s killers were too lenient

·4-min read

The jail sentences of the couple who killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes are to be reviewed to “determine whether they were too low”, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) has confirmed.

Arthur was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of his stepmother, 32-year-old Emma Tustin, who was jailed for life on Friday after being convicted of murder by assaulting the defenceless child in Solihull on 16 June last year at her home in Cranmore Road.

Tustin’s life sentence carries a minimum term of 29 years, while Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.

Jurors heard that the 29-year-old encouraged the killing of his son, whose body was found to be covered in 130 bruises, including by sending a text message to Tustin less than 24 hours before the fatal attack instructing her to “just end him”.

The AGO confirmed on Saturday afternoon that the sentences are to be reviewed to asses whether they were too lenient.

It came after local MP Julian Knight announced his intention to refer the sentences for review, writing on Twitter: “I’ve just laid flowers at the shrine for young Arthur, lots of touching tributes from local residents and people around Solihull.

“There’s a palpable sense of real loss and tragedy over this and also frankly a sense of anger and questions as to how this was allowed to happen, how these monsters were allowed to inflict this horrible torture on this young defenceless boy.

“My view is very simple on this, we need to get to the bottom of how this happened and we need to ensure that those who have failed are accountable.

“But also I think anyone reflecting on those sentences yesterday thinks that they were too lenient and my intention is to try and refer this to the Unduly Lenient Sentencing scheme as soon as possible and I will be doing that on Monday morning.”

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

In her victim impact statement, which she read in court ahead of the sentencing, Arthur’s paternal grandmother Joanne Hughes said Arthur would “be alive today” as a “happy, contented, thriving seven-year-old” had her son not met Tustin.

Hughes’s “infatuation” for Tustin had “obliterated” any love for his son, the sentencing judge said.

In addition to manslaughter, Hughes was also convicted of two counts of child cruelty to which Tustin had admitted – 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.

While Tustin was convicted on two further counts of cruelty, including poisoning Arthur with salt and withholding food and drink from him, Hughes – who had denied any wrongdoing – was cleared of both charges.

Hughes claimed in court he was “manipulated”, “mentally abused” and “gaslighted” by Tustin into going along with her behavioural regime, which began with the strict use of “chair rules” and a “naughty step”, introduced by his partner.

After taking six hours and 15 minutes to deliver their verdict, jurors asked the judge to hold a minute’s silence in Arthur’s memory.

Questions were also raised during the eight-week trial at Coventry Crown Court over the handling of the case by child services and West Midlands Police.

Solihull's Local Child Safeguarding Partnership has launched an independent review into the case 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”.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) said it had also “conducted and concluded” an investigation into the West Midlands force’s handling of the case, and would publish its report in due course.

Speaking during a by-election campaign visit on Friday, Boris Johnson said ministers would leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong in the “appalling” case.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi is expected to make a statement on the case to Parliament on Monday.

Additional reporting by PA

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