The couple responsible for Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’s murder should have their prison cell keys thrown away, MPs heard, as the Government pledged to help reveal what went wrong.
Emotional tributes were paid to the six-year-old boy during a statement to the House of Commons to confirm that two reviews would take place into his death and to assess child protection services in the Solihull area.
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 the six-year-old’s murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter.
Peter Halcrow, 61, the maternal grandfather of Arthur, from Dunkeld, Perthshire, has reportedly called for the pair to never leave prison, after the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) confirmed their sentences would be reviewed.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the “whole nation is distraught” at the “tragic and horrific” death of Arthur, insisting: “I am as determined as everybody in this House to get to the truth and expose what went wrong, and take any action necessary to protect children.”
He added in the Commons: “No Government anywhere in the world can legislate for evil, but we will take action wherever we can to stop it from happening again because we must do more.”
Conservative MP Saqib Bhatti said his constituents in Meriden, Solihull, had been devastated by Arthur’s death, adding: “I pay tribute to that young boy with that beautiful smile.”
He welcomed the inspection and the review, adding: “I completely also agree on the Attorney General’s review of the sentencing and I have to admit many times over the last few days I’ve thought they should lock them up and throw away the key.”
Julian Knight, the Conservative MP for Solihull, said: “At the very least, we owe it to Arthur that every lesson from this horrific tragedy is learned and no town has its heart broken like Solihull’s heart.”
Labour accused the Government of having “tolerated failure” in children’s services across the country and insisted this must end.
Ahead of the Commons statement, Mr Halcrow told the Sun: “They must never see the light of day again. No punishment could ever be enough for this pair.
“I have never favoured the death penalty because I know mistakes can be made by courts, but in my view they have forfeited their right to live.
“It will burden taxpayers but, as we don’t have capital punishment, they should certainly never leave prison as long as they live for such cruelty and inhumanity.”
The AGO has 28 days from the date of sentence to review a case, assess whether it falls under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, and make a decision as to whether to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal then makes a ruling on cases that have been referred.
A spokesperson for the AGO said: “The Attorney General’s thoughts are with those who loved Arthur.
“I can confirm that the sentences given to Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes have been referred to the Attorney General for review to determine whether they were too low.”
Arthur’s grandmother, Madeleine Halcrow, was among a large crowd of people who gathered on Sunday afternoon outside the house in Cranmore Road, Solihull where the six-year-old was killed to pay tribute.
The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and will provide additional support to Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Partnership to “upgrade” the already existing local review that was launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020.
It emerged in court that the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields), a former child protection social worker, told the Commons: “It’s a matter of record that when the Secretary of State (Mr Zahawi) was children’s minister and I was his shadow, I repeatedly warned him that pursuing this Government’s agenda of cuts, increasing bureaucracy, deregulation and privatisation of child protection would cost a child’s life.
“Like his predecessors, he ignored me. However, I know the Secretary of State is a genuinely caring man and I certainly don’t have all the answers here, but will he please now meet with me so we can at last work together to make sure that no other precious little life is so brutally taken again?”
Mr Zahawi agreed to meet with Ms Lewell-Buck, although he said her characterisation was “slightly unfair”, adding that the Government had worked to improve the system.