The British government has announced a major review into the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
Arthur’s stepmother, Emma Tustin (32), was jailed for life at Coventry Crown Court on Friday, with a minimum term of 29 years, after being found guilty of his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes (29), was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
The boy was left with an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of Tustin, and his body was found to be covered in 130 bruises.
It follows an independent review launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020 by Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership after it emerged in court that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before he was killed , but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
The UK’s National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the new national review and will provide additional support to the Solihull partnership to “upgrade” their existing local review.
A targeted area inspection will also be commissioned to consider what improvements are needed by all agencies who protect vulnerable children in Solihull, including how they work together.
Speaking on Friday, British prime minister Boris Johnson vowed to leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong. He said it was essential to learn lessons and to work out what else could have been done to protect the child.
British education secretary Nadhim Zahawi is due to make a Commons statement on the case on Monday.
Speaking on Sunday about the review, Mr Zahawi said the UK government would “not rest until we have the answers we need”.
He added: “Arthur’s murder has shocked and appalled the nation. I am deeply distressed by this awful case and the senseless pain inflicted on this poor boy, who has been robbed of the chance to live his life.
“I have taken immediate action and asked for a joint inspection to consider where improvements are needed by all the agencies tasked with protecting children in Solihull, so that we can be assured that we are doing everything in our power to protect other children and prevent such evil crimes.
“Given the enormity of this case, the range of agencies involved and the potential for its implications to be felt nationally, I have also asked Annie Hudson, chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, to work with leaders in Solihull to deliver a single, national review of Arthur’s death to identify where we must learn from this terrible case.”
He said the government is “determined to protect children from harm” and will not hesitate to take “urgent and robust action” where concerns are raised.
Voices of children
Children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza said the system “must listen to the voices of children”.
She told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The life of a child is of inestimable value and his voice was not heard and that’s where we need to start.
“Obviously there’s a serious case review under way and we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action, and now.”
She said there are two actions that need to be taken now: “One – Arthur raised concerns, he was not a baby, he was six years old, he raised concerns and the system did not hear him. We must listen to the voices of children.
“And secondly, no doubt with these reviews and national reviews that are absolutely right that they happen, they tend to make the same recommendations . . . it’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.”
On Saturday, the British attorney general’s office (AGO) confirmed Tustin and Hughes’s sentences are to be reviewed, to see if they fall under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme.
The AGO has 28 days from the date of sentence to complete the review and make a decision on whether to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal then makes a ruling on cases which have been referred. – PA