Boris Johnson orders review into Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case

National inquiry will ensure lessons to be learnt are communicated to agencies across England

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 05 December 2021 18:49
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'Alarm bells were raised, Arthur was on the radar' - Tim Laughton MP

The government has launched a national review of lessons to be learnt from the tragic death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Led by the chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, Annie Hudson, the inquiry will seek to identify what went wrong in Arthur’s case in order to ensure that any necessary changes to practices are disseminated to social services and criminal justice agencies around England.

The national review replaces an earlier local child safeguarding practice review – previously known as a serious case review – which was put on hold during the trial of Arthur’s father and stepmother.

Separately, a targeted area inspection, led jointly by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and HM Inspectorate of Probation, will consider what improvements are needed in agencies tasked with protecting vulnerable children in the murdered boy’s home area of Solihull, in the West Midlands.

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 his murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter. Attorney general Suella Braverman has ordered a review of whether the sentences were too lenient.

Arthur died in June 2020 from head injuries after months of being starved and mistreated by the couple. Social workers who saw the family two months before his death found there were “no safeguarding concerns”.

Announcing the new reviews, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Arthur’s murder has shocked and appalled the nation. I am deeply distressed by this awful case and the senseless pain inflicted on this poor boy, who has been robbed of the chance to live his life.

“I have taken immediate action and asked for a joint inspection to consider where improvements are needed by all the agencies tasked with protecting children in Solihull, so that we can be assured that we are doing everything in our power to protect other children and prevent such evil crimes.

“Given the enormity of this case, the range of agencies involved and the potential for its implications to be felt nationally, I have also asked Annie Hudson, chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, to work with leaders in Solihull to deliver a single, national review of Arthur’s death to identify where we must learn from this terrible case.

“We are determined to protect children from harm, and where concerns are raised we will not hesitate to take urgent and robust action.

“We will not rest until we have the answers we need.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson last week promised that he would “leave absolutely no stone unturned to find out exactly what went wrong in that appalling case”.

And his deputy, Dominic Raab, said he believed that agencies should take “a more precautionary approach” in responding to signs that a vulnerable child may be being abused.

Speaking on Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday show, Mr Raab said vulnerable children need “the maximum protection” but said there was no “silver bullet” solution to the problem.

He rejected suggestions that increased funding for social services was the only answer.

“This is often reduced to the question of resources,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’ve put in £4.8bn – close to £5bn.

“But they do an incredibly difficult job. It’s very finely balanced.

“On the one hand, they need to make sure they’ve got the engagement and relationship with those families and talk to them. On the other hand, of course, the top priority has got to be looking for those risks, reading the signs, which may only be subtle and with the benefit of hindsight be more obvious.

“I do think we’ve got to make sure there is, if you like, a more precautionary approach which looks at the risk to those particularly vulnerable young children and see what more we can do to read those signs earlier and better.”

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