Arthur Labinjo-Hughes should have been a top priority for social services but was “missed” during the coronavirus lockdown, a child protection boss has said.
He was left with an unsurvivable brain injury in June last year, after being left in the care of his father’s girlfriend, who was jailed for life with a minimum sentence of 29 years on Friday. Hughes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Local MP Julian Knight has said he plans to appeal to the Attorney General to lengthen Hughes and Tustin’s sentences under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.
New CCTV from inside the couple’s home released by West Midlands Police shows them eating ice cream as Arthur starved out of sight.
It emerged during the couple’s trial that Arthur’s grandmother had pictures of his bruises and asked social services to visit him, but staff said they had “no safeguarding concerns”.
Wendy Thorogood, director of association of Child Protection Professionals, told Times Radio he “should” have been a priority for local services.
“You would have expected them to actually look at his history, but unfortunately they go on what they see at the moment in time,” she said.
“I would have expected any assessment to really take account of the grandmother’s photos, I would have expected joint conversations and real conversations [with Arthur]… and that appears to have been missed.”
Arthur and his father moved in with Tustin at the start of the COVID lockdown in March last year, Coventry Crown Court was told.
He did not return to school when it reopened at the beginning of June.
Ms Thorogood added: “We have to remember this was under COVID, so he wasn’t actually getting additional oversight from school and education.
“He wasn’t on a child protection list, he wasn’t one of the children that you would have considered to be a priority.”
Former children’s minister Tim Loughton told Sky News on Friday that we “urgently need to learn the lesson from this case”.
“We still have a profession that is very stretched,” he said. “But if you don’t join up with other agencies and ask the awkward questions and keep at it, it’s a false economy because tragedies like this will still happen.
“The question we have to ask is why the system didn’t work to protect this child.”
Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership has launched an independent review following the court revelations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said ministers will leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong in the “appalling” case.
The social services visit in April 2020 was promoted after Arthur’s paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, rang the out-of-hours emergency social services team to report bruising she had seen on the boy’s back.
But despite social workers examining him and finding a “faint” yellow bruise, they agreed with Tustin and Hughes that it was a “happy household”.
In her victim impact statement, which she read in court ahead of the sentencing, Ms Hughes said Arthur, as a “happy, contented, thriving seven-year-old” would “be alive today” had her son not met Tustin.
The secondary school teacher added: “It is also clear that Arthur was failed by the very authorities that we, as a society, are led to believe are there to ensure the safety of everyone.”