Don’t be fooled by deceitful parents, top child expert warns social workers | Child protection

Social workers have to be extra sceptical and decisive when confronted by “manipulative and deceitful” dad and mom, one of many UK’s main child protection consultants has urged following the torture and killing of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by the hands of his stepmother and father.

Martin Narey, a former head of youngsters’s charity Barnardo’s and senior authorities adviser, mentioned social companies ought to view probably abusive dad and mom “extra critically” and never draw back from taking kids into care.

Six-year-old Arthur from Solihull, West Midlands, was poisoned, starved and overwhelmed throughout a marketing campaign of abuse by stepmother Emma Tustin, 32, and his father Thomas Hughes, 29, through the weeks main as much as his loss of life.

On Friday, Hughes was sentenced to 21 years after being discovered responsible of manslaughter. Tustin was sentenced to life in jail with a minimal time period of 29 years.


On Saturday, the Lawyer Basic’s Workplace mentioned that the jail sentences of 29 years and 21 years, respectively, had been to be reviewed to “decide whether or not they had been too low”. The AGO has 28 days from the date of sentence to evaluate a case, assess whether or not it falls underneath the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, and decide as as to if to refer a sentence to the Court docket of Attraction.

A spokesperson mentioned: “The lawyer normal’s ideas are with those that liked Arthur. I can verify that the sentences given to Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes have been referred to the lawyer normal for evaluate to find out whether or not they had been too low.”

Police bodycam footage, recorded moments after Tustin had inflicted the ultimate deadly accidents, reveals the unemployed mom of 4 repeatedly mendacity to cowl up the schoolboy’s extended torture.

But social workers, notified by Arthur’s grandmother of bruising to his shoulders, discovered “no safeguarding issues” after visiting the boy two months earlier than he was murdered. One believed Arthur was “very joyful”.

Narey, who has suggested the federal government on adoption and different kids’s points, together with the reform of social work schooling, mentioned: “Social workers do an impressive job typically, however a few of them have to have extra scepticism once they’re coping with dad and mom who’re manipulative and deceitful.”

He added that Arthur’s loss of life uncovered flaws within the present strategy of social companies, which, he mentioned, positioned an onus on working with dad and mom as a substitute of guaranteeing the child’s security, if mandatory by taking them into care.

“One of many flaws is that everybody believes that taking a child into care is a destructive step. As a result of the youngsters in care are, for instance, performing badly educationally. However that’s only a profound misunderstanding of what’s taking place. These kids do badly in schooling and different areas as a result of they’ve been uncared for at residence.

“The proof reveals that for youngsters who’re in want, care has a optimistic impact,” mentioned Narey, additionally a former head of the Jail Service in England and Wales and particular adviser to Michael Gove when he was schooling secretary.

Wendy Thorogood, director of the Affiliation of Child Protection Professionals, additionally appeared to echo Narey’s name for better consciousness by social workers concerning the potential hurt posed by manipulative dad and mom.

The child protection expert mentioned: “I can’t touch upon what they [the social workers] truly witnessed, however you must keep in mind he [Arthur] was by the hands of fairly merciless individuals who may manipulate him, his setting and professionals.” She mentioned that Arthur ought to have been a top precedence for social companies, however was one way or the other “missed”. Thorogood advised Occasions Radio: “You’ll have anticipated them to really take a look at his historical past, however sadly they go on what they see in the meanwhile in time.”

In the meantime, Lord Laming, who led the general public inquiry into the loss of life of Victoria Climbié and reviewed the case of child Peter Connelly, additionally known as for adjustments to the system, stating that the coaching for social workers ought to be reviewed within the wake of Arthur’s homicide. “I feel the standard of the coaching of social work must be checked out once more,” he mentioned.

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was poisoned, starved and beaten in the weeks before his death.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was poisoned, starved and overwhelmed within the weeks earlier than his loss of life. {Photograph}: Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow/PA

Laming additionally warned that the monetary cuts of the previous decade had taken their toll. “The marked discount in funding of native authorities within the final 10 years has had an actual withdrawal from frontline companies, and it’s turn out to be one thing of a disaster service, reasonably than a preventative service.


“The entire organisation must concentrate on the frontline, on what’s taking place to kids, and ensuring they intervene earlier reasonably than later and when it’s too late,” Laming advised the BBC Radio 4 Right this moment programme.

David Jamieson, former West Midlands police and crime commissioner from 2014 to 2021, additionally mentioned austerity had squeezed frontline public companies within the area and that any classes realized from the circumstances round Arthur’s homicide must replicate that.

An unbiased critical case evaluate is trying into the case, significantly why not less than three warnings from relations and academics about Arthur’s welfare had been ignored.

The evaluate can be more likely to examine the attainable impression of lockdown, with Arthur’s abuse escalating after he and his father – who had sole custody after his mom was jailed two years in the past for stabbing her associate to loss of life – moved into Tustin’s residence in March final 12 months when Covid restrictions had been first launched. Coventry crown court docket heard how the couple orchestrated a “marketing campaign of cruelty” during which the boy was remoted, compelled to eat salt-laced meals and suffered 130 accidents.

Tustin, 32, inflicted an unsurvivable mind damage on Arthur at her Solihull residence on 17 June final 12 months.

Hughes, 29, a labourer, despatched a textual content to Tustin 18 hours earlier than the deadly assault that learn: “Simply finish him.”

Mr Justice Wall advised the court docket that neither defendant had proven regret and that their actions had been “spiteful and sadistic”.

Tustin’s personal two kids, he mentioned, “lived a wonderfully joyful life in that home” yards from the place Arthur was subjected to “unthinkable abuse”.

CCTV from contained in the couple’s residence launched by West Midlands Police on Friday reveals them consuming ice-cream as Arthur starved out of sight.

Tustin has by no means revealed her motive for torturing and killing Arthur. She carried out the deadly assault whereas in sole care of Arthur, taking {a photograph} of the child on her cellphone as he lay dying, then sending the picture to Hughes.

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