The sentences for the killers of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes are too lenient and should be appealed to make them longer, an MP has said.
The boy, from Solihull, was poisoned, starved and beaten by step-mother Emma Tustin, 32, and his father Thomas Hughes, 29, in a prolonged campaign of “evil abuse”.
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.
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull, said: “I think anyone reflecting on those sentences yesterday thinks that they were too lenient and my intention is to try to refer this to the unduly lenient sentencing scheme as soon as possible.”
He added: “There’s a palpable sense of real loss and tragedy over this and a sense of anger and questions over how this was allowed to happen and how these monsters were allowed to inflict this horrible torture on this defenceless young boy.”
CCTV has been released by West Midlands Police of Tustin and Thomas Hughes eating ice cream in their home while Arthur starved just out of sight.
It came as Chelsea FC paid tribute to Arthur before their game against West Ham on Saturday.
A child protection boss has also said the six-year-old should have been a top priority for social services but was “missed” during the coronavirus lockdown.
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.”