'We must listen to Arthur's voice now', says England's children's commissioner

5 December 2021, 11:35 | Updated: 5 December 2021, 11:38

By Sophie Barnett

England's children's commissioner has told Swarbrick on Sunday that we "must listen to Arthur's voice now" to make sure a similar tragedy doesn't happen again, adding that social services are "stretched to their limit".

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Dame Rachel de Souza, children's commissioner for England, told Tom that we must take "decisive action" following the "horrific" abuse and murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, aged six, by his parents.

His murder has shocked the nation, with a national investigation being launched by the government into his death to find out how he was "failed" by the system.

Dame Rachel said: "For Arthur, we need to both hear his voice and make sure this does not happen again.

"The life of a child, there is nothing more important, and that is why we need a national inquiry. That and the factor that, we might be hearing his voice now, but we didn't hear his voice when he was alive.

"And that is worthy of a national inquiry."

Read more: Government 'not satisfied' with sentences for 'appalling' murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Read more: Attorney General to review 'lenient' sentences of 'monsters' who killed Arthur, 6

Ms de Souza said she wants to ensure children's voices are "always heard in the future".

Asked by Tom what she thinks needs to change, Ms de Souza said lockdown proved to be "difficult".

She said people did raise concerns but it's "always when children's voices aren't listened to when things go wrong".

"We need to make sure the voice of the child is at the centre of any children social care issues," she said.

She refused to point the blame, but said social services have been "stretched to their limit".

Read more: 'Hammer blow' for travel industry as pre-departure Covid tests return for all UK arrivals

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, age six, was murdered by his "evil" stepmother.
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, age six, was murdered by his "evil" stepmother. Picture: Alamy

Tom asked Ms De Souza what her thoughts were on the sentences given to Arthur's parents - with his stepmother Emma Tustin receiving a life-sentence with a minimum of 29 years, and father Thomas Hughes getting 21 years.

The Attorney General is to review the sentences given to Tustin for murder and Hughes for manslaughter.

Tom asked: "Do you have a thought, or a gut feeling, about the sentences that were given to Arthur's parents, in particular his stepmother who murdered him?

"Minimum 29 years in prison, should it not be life without parole? Is that not a sentence that is too lenient?"

Ms de souza replied: "The most horrific, malevolent crime against a young defenceless child has been carried out.

"The loss of Arthur's life, no amount of years, no amount of discussion about sentencing can in any way answer that."

She refused to answer whether Tustin should get life, saying: "I want to see what that serious case review and the national review say."

Ms de Souza was also asked by Tom whether Arthur's tragic murder shows schools should never close again.

She said her "passion and intention" is to ensure schools do not close, referring to a recent survey of the country's children.

She told Tom: "I asked them about their experience of lockdown, and over half a million children responded.

"They told me they liked school, they wanted to be in school, they wanted to get their lives back on track. They made a huge sacrifice for us and we need to keep schools open for them. I really believe that's true."

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