Emma Tustin: Call for whole life sentence for murderer of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

·6-min read
Emma Tustin: Call for whole life sentence for murderer of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

The killer of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes tried to kill herself after she was jailed for life for the six-year-old’s murder, as she faces the possibility of the rest of her life in prison.

Emma Tustin, 32, subjected her stepson Arthur to a horrific regime of torture and abuse before murdering him at the family home in Solihull during the first Covid lockdown.

She was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 29 years, while Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes, 29, was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter.

Tustin now faces a bid by Attorney General Suella Braverman to convert her sentence into a whole life order, in a hearing together with other notorious killers including PC Wayne Couzens.

Mary Prior QC, representing Tustin, told judges the killer had twice attempted to kill herself, by hanging and drug overdose, during her criminal trial, and she made a fresh bid a few weeks after her sentencing hearing in December last year.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with his father Thomas Hughes and Thomas’ partner Emma Tustin (Family handout/West Midlands Police/PA) (PA Media)
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes with his father Thomas Hughes and Thomas’ partner Emma Tustin (Family handout/West Midlands Police/PA) (PA Media)

“Her prison report indicates there been a further episode of attempted suicide”, she said.

“On January 1, 2022, she put a ligature around her neck and the records from prison show she is on the hospital wing and has remained on the hospital wing because of significant fears of suicide.”

Tustin murdered Arthur in June 2020 after subjecting the young boy to daily abuse. His body was covered in 130 bruises when he died, he had been starved of food and water and poisoned with salt, and finally died from an unsurvivable brain injury while in Tustin’s care.

Applying for consideration of a whole life order, Tom Little QC, representing the Attorney General, called it “an extremely serious example of a child murder” with extensive evidence of cruelty, and argued the judge should have been asked to consider a whole life term for Tustin.

“(It was) systematic and continual and ended with a brutal murder”, he said. “It’s a case which merited - at the very least – consideration of a whole life order.”

 (PA)
(PA)

Hughes is seeking a review of the length of his prison term, while Tustin is opposing the imposition of a whole life order.

Ms Prior said Tustin herself had revealed some aspects of the cruelty that Arthur had to endure, including standing by the door for 12 to 14 hours a day.

She accepted it was “child cruelty over a prolonged period of time”, but argued the judge had taken the “right, fair, and proper approach” to sentencing.

Ms Prior said Tustin had shown “little or no remorse” for the treatment of Arthur, but said there was mitigation in her case including a suicide attempt in 2013 when she jumped from a multi-storey carpark as well as a background of abuse she herself had suffered as a child and teenage mother.

Wayne Couzens will attempt to appeal his whole-life sentence for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard (PA Media)
Wayne Couzens will attempt to appeal his whole-life sentence for the rape and murder of Sarah Everard (PA Media)

Five senior judges are considering a series of notorious murder cases where there is a challenge to a whole life prison term, or an attempt for one to be imposed.

Former Met Police officer Couzens was handed a whole life term for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard in March last year.

Ms Everard had been targeted as she walked home alone from a friend’s home, with Couzens abusing his status as a police officer to carry out a bogus arrest.

Sentencing Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford said the circumstances of the case were “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal” and were so exceptional that it warranted a whole-life order.

His lawyers are expected to mount a challenge to that sentence, arguing he should be offered at least a glimmer of hope that he could one day be released.

Public trust in the Met was shaken by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer (Family handout/CPS) (PA Media)
Public trust in the Met was shaken by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer (Family handout/CPS) (PA Media)

Another case before the court is Jordan Monaghan, 30, who was handed a 40-year minimum term of a life sentence for murdering two of his children and his partner, Evie Adams.

The killer smothered his 24-day-old daughter Ruby as she slept in a Moses basket on New Year’s Day 2013, and eight months later he smothered his 21-month-old son Logan. Six years after that, Monaghan murdered Ms Adams with a drugs overdose.

Mr Little said the killings were fuelled by Monaghan’s attempts “to distract his then-partner from his gambling habit and maintain control of her”, and the unusual features of the case put it into the “exceptionally high” sentencing category.

“The third murder was one of significant planning and preparation, involving a painful death – her having been tricked to take strong forms of medication which ultimately killed him. That was committed on police bail”, he said.

“The totality of this offending here could only be realistically regarded as exceptionally high, given the unusual features of the case. There was, in truth, no mitigation here at all.

Triple killer Jordan Monaghan (PA Media)
Triple killer Jordan Monaghan (PA Media)

“A minimum term of 40 years for these offences was unduly lenient, given the scale of the homicide offences, the duration, and that they were all separate in time, and bearing in mind the young age of the victims.”

Benjamin Myers QC, representing Monaghan, called the sentence he received “enormous” and urged the judges not to increase it to a whole life prison term.

“The sentence was passed by a very experienced criminal judge”, he said.

“The facts of the case – as upsetting and heinous as they are – do not disclose the severity that is the hallmark of cases to which a whole life order is characteristically applied.

“It is the number of them the draws the attention, committed over that amount of time. But a detailed and careful assessment of the factors placed the judge in a very good position to identify the correct sentence.”

Double murderer Ian Stewart (PA Media)
Double murderer Ian Stewart (PA Media)

The final case being assessed by judges is that of double murderer Ian Stewart, who was convicted of murdering his first wife six years before he went on to murder his fiancee.

Stewart killed 51-year-old children’s book author Helen Bailey in 2016, and dumped her body in the cesspit of the £1.5 million home they shared in Royston in Hertfordshire.

A trial previously heard it was most likely she was suffocated while sedated by drugs, and Stewart was found guilty of her murder in 2017.

After this conviction, police investigated the 2010 death of Stewart’s first wife, Diane Stewart, 47.

The cause of her death was recorded at the time as sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, but in February Stewart was found guilty of her murder.

Stewart, like Couzens, is appealing against his whole life prison sentence.

Couzens is appearing at the hearing via videolink from HMP Frankland while Hughes and Monaghan are both on videolinks from HMP Wakefield. Tustin and Stewart both “declined to attend” the hearing, the court was told.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Johnson are hearing the two-day appeals, with decisions expected at a later date.

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