A proposed amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, would allow judges to hand down whole-life sentences for perpetrators of the worst forms of child cruelty.
The proposal, raised by Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, follows a campaign by the adoptive parents of 6-year-old Tony Hudgell, whose birth parents had inflicted such severe physical injuries that he was left fighting for his life, and subsequently lost both of his legs.
Tony came to the media’s attention after he collected more than £1.3 million for Evelina Children’s Hospital, walking 10 kilometres to raise the money.
The perpetrators were only sentenced to ten years in prison for their abuse, the maximum sentence available under current guidelines.
The legal proposal, which is called “Tony’s Law”, was first introduced in 2019, and seeks to amend section five of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, to raise the maximum sentences for causing or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to suffer serious injury or death to 14 years for the ‘serious injury’ offence, and life for death.
Speaking in Parliament last September, Tugendhat said, “Tony’s law aims to send the message that we cannot and will not tolerate severe offences committed against the most vulnerable among us, that although they are not old enough to vote or stand for Parliament, still their life and safety matter as much as that of an adult.”
In the same month, the government introduced whole-life orders (WLO) for individuals found guilty of killing children. The sentence can be handed down for the most serious cases of murder. Judges will also be able to impose WLOs on 18-20 year olds in exceptional cases involving mass loss of life, such as terror attacks.
Tugendhat said he would be raising Tony’s Law in Parliament this week, to ensure the amendment makes it in to the policing bill.