Peers back tougher penalties for child abusers

·2-min read

Child abusers could soon be facing more time behind bars as peers overwhelmingly supported a Government-backed law change, which would see the introduction of tougher sentences.

On Wednesday, the Government tabled two amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, that would ensure child abusers face more time in jail.

Under the changes, anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care will face up to life imprisonment – rather than the current 14-year maximum.

The offences of causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child, and cruelty to a person under 16, will also incur tougher maximum penalties – increasing from 10 to 14 years respectively.

The changes, dubbed Tony’s Law, follow a campaign by Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge) and the adoptive family of seven-year-old Tony Hudgell, who had to have both his legs amputated in 2017 as a result of abuse suffered at the hands of his birth parents.

Tabling the amendments to Bill, which is currently at report stage in the upper chamber, justice minister Lord Wolfson of Tredegar said: “May I first pay tribute to Tom Tugendhat and the family of his young constituent, Tony Hudgell, who campaigned tirelessly for these changes to the law, in his name.

“As a baby, Tony was abused to such an extent by his birth parents, that he is now severely disabled. And no child should suffer such appalling abuse especially from those who should love and care for them the most. It is right to ensure that therefore, in such cases, the punishment indeed fits the crime.”

Addressing the widespread outcry, which followed the case of murdered Solihull six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes earlier this month, Labour frontbencher Baroness Chapman of Darlington said: “We’ve all been deeply shocked and moved by some of the recent cases and the voice of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes… I can’t bear to repeat his words. And it is little wonder, I think that the Government feels moved to act on this.”

However, while Lady Chapman said Labour would support these measures, she stressed they “won’t prevent these crimes”.

She added: “The Government has systematically undermined early intervention and prevention services. And they’ve largely been delivered by local government, also health and schools that combined to protect children and vulnerable adults.

“And I would ask the minister, to speak to his colleagues about working urgently and strategically, to deal with the well understood now unreported problems of poor communication, lack of curiosity, excessive caseload and inadequate coordination of services that put child services under so much strain and children at risk.”

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