Life sentences for child abusers are welcome – but the focus must be on early detection

We need to understand whether government agencies are able to use and share data systematically to search for patterns of behaviour that set off an alarm, writes Salma Shah

Friday 03 December 2021 13:34
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<p>Tony Hudgell, who uses prosthetic legs, takes the final steps in his fundraising walk in West Malling, Kent, with adoptive parents Paula and Mark</p>

Tony Hudgell, who uses prosthetic legs, takes the final steps in his fundraising walk in West Malling, Kent, with adoptive parents Paula and Mark

The government unveiled a new piece of legislation this week that deserved more attention. Tony’s Law will increase maximum sentencing for child abusers from 14 years to life. The change was prompted by the passionate campaigning of the adoptive family of seven-year-old Tony Hudgell who, as a baby, endured abuse so severe both his legs were amputated.

Who wouldn’t support this change? Especially when confronted with the horrors of how some people treat vulnerable, defenceless children. It is absolutely right to take a stand on behalf of those who cannot do so for themselves, never more so than in light of the case against the father and stepmother of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. The government has acted swiftly and purposefully in this situation. Not traits always associated with those in power.

But this is not just about tougher sentencing, important as that is. Further government policy solutions will favour “prevention” but those types of policy interventions can take years to develop. Instead we need to get better at “detection”.

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