Child abuser could become first prisoner kept behind bars for longer under new powers

·2-min read
Dominic Raab has referred the case of Jody Simpson to the Parole Board - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/BPM Media
Dominic Raab has referred the case of Jody Simpson to the Parole Board - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/BPM Media

A mother who abused her child so badly that he had to have his legs amputated could become the first prisoner to be kept behind bars for longer under new ministerial powers.

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, on Thursday asked the Parole Board to reconsider plans to release Jody Simpson at the halfway point of her 10-year prison sentence.

The 24-year-old and her partner Anthony Smith, 47, were both given 10-year prison sentences in 2018 for torturing their birth son, Tony Hudgell.

Tony, now seven, suffered torn ligaments, broken fingers and contracted sepsis as a result of the torture he endured. He was on the verge of dying before doctors saved his life, but had to amputate his legs.

Mr Raab said: “Tony endured a horrific and systematic campaign of abuse from his birth parents, and we are duty bound to do everything possible to prevent another child suffering at their hands.

“So I have referred the case of Jody Simpson to the Parole Board, under new powers designed keep prisoners incarcerated for longer, when their release would put public safety at risk.”

Tony Hudgell meets Boris Johnson at the Points of Light Awards this week - Peter Nicholls/Pool via AP
Tony Hudgell meets Boris Johnson at the Points of Light Awards this week - Peter Nicholls/Pool via AP

Tony’s new mother, Paula Hudgell, said she felt “over the moon” about the potential change to Simpson’s sentence, adding that it showed “how much Tony has touched everyone’s hearts”.

“Tony suffers every single day, and their sentence doesn't reflect the severity of the crime,” she said. “These sentences were given out and I feel they should serve that time – it shouldn’t just be half that time.”

Simpson was due to be released on licence halfway through her prison sentence on Friday. However, she was told that Mr Raab is referring her case to decide whether to prevent her being freed.

It is the first use of unprecedented new powers that enable ministers to force criminals to serve jail terms beyond their normal release date if they are judged to pose a “significant risk of serious harm” to the public.

The rule change allows them to override judges’ “fixed-term sentences”, which set automatic release dates at halfway or two-thirds through offenders’ jail terms.

It followed tougher laws for child abusers which came into force in June, meaning that anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their household can now be given up to life in prison, up from the previous 14-year maximum.

The sentencing changes, also introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, are known as “Tony’s Law” following tireless campaigning by Tony and his adoptive family.