The jail sentences handed to Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, who killed six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, have been referred to the Court of Appeal for being too lenient, Attorney General Suella Braverman has announced.
Arthur suffered an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of his father’s “evil” partner, 32-year-old Tustin.
She was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years at Coventry Crown Court on December 3, after being convicted of murder by assaulting the defenceless child in the hallway of her home in Cranmore Road, Solihull, on June 16 2020.
Arthur, whose body was also covered in 130 bruises, died in hospital the next day.
“Manipulative” and “calculating” Tustin was unanimously convicted after an eight-week trial, with the boy’s “pitiless” father found guilty of his manslaughter, after encouraging the killing.
Hughes’ “infatuation” for Tustin had “obliterated” any love for his son, sentencing judge Mr Justice Mark Wall QC said, and jailed the 29-year-old for 21 years.
Referring the case to the Court of Appeal, Ms Braverman said: “This is an extremely upsetting and disturbing case, involving a clearly vulnerable young child.
“Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes grossly abused their position of trust and subjected an innocent child, who they should have been protecting, to continued emotional and physical abuse.
“I understand how distressing the public have found this case, but it is my job to decide if a sentence appears to be unduly lenient based on the facts of the case.
“I have carefully considered the details of this case, and I have decided to refer the sentences to the Court of Appeal as I believe them to be too low.”
A date for the hearing is yet to be set.
The grim circumstances of Arthur’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and rage across the UK, and led to the Government announcing a major review into the circumstances which led to his murder.
It emerged at trial that Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, after concerns were raised by his paternal grandmother, Joanne Hughes, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
In her victim impact statement, Ms Hughes said Arthur would “be alive today” as a “happy, contented, thriving” child 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.”
Mr Justice Wall described the trial as “without doubt one of the most distressing and disturbing cases I have had to deal with”, adding that neither Hughes nor Tustin had shown any remorse.
The judge said Arthur had been, at the time Tustin was introduced into his life, a “healthy, happy young boy”.
But less than three months after moving in with Tustin at the start of the first national lockdown, the youngster was left “broken” from exposure to a campaign of “acute or prolonged abuse,” he said.
Tustin was also convicted of two counts of child cruelty, including salt-poisoning and withholding food and drink from Arthur.
She had admitted two other cruelty counts, wilfully assaulting Arthur on three occasions and isolating him, including by forcing him to stand in the hallway for up to 14 hours a day as part of a draconian punishment regime.
Labourer Hughes was also convicted of the cruelty offences which Tustin had admitted but was cleared of withholding food and drink, and of poisoning his own son with salt.
Jailing the pair, the judge said: “This cruel and inhuman treatment of Arthur was a deliberate decision by you to brush off his cries for help as naughtiness.”
He added that the couple’s behaviour was “appalling” and at times their acts were “spiteful and sadistic”.
The judge called Hughes’ “encouragement” of his partner’s actions “chilling”, including sending a text message 18 hours before the attack saying “just end him”.
He added: “You were Arthur’s father, in a position of trust, and bore primary responsibility for protecting him.
“He was extremely vulnerable and you lied to his school in last days of Arthur’s life to protect both you and Ms Tustin.”