The Government has announced a major review into the circumstances which led to the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
It aims to determine what improvements are needed by the agencies that came into contact with Arthur in the months before he was murdered by stepmother Emma Tustin at their home in Solihull.
The National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and will provide additional support to Solihull Children’s Safeguarding Partnership to “upgrade” the already existing local review which was launched shortly after Arthur’s death in June 2020.
The action comes after it emerged in court the boy had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were “no safeguarding concerns”.
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.
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.”
A targeted area inspection will be also commissioned and led jointly by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services and HM Inspectorate of Probation.
It will consider what improvements are needed by all agencies who protect vulnerable children in Solihull, including how they work together.
Asked about the review on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The Prime Minister made clear that we want to see how social services liaise with the criminal justice agencies, and what lessons we can learn.”
“It is right that we look at the criminal justice end and in between that I think the job of social workers, particularly those looking at children at particular risk, we need to learn the lessons.”
He added: “I do think we have got to make sure 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 early signs earlier and better.”
Speaking on Friday during a campaign visit in Shropshire, the Prime Minister vowed to leave “absolutely no stone unturned” to establish what went wrong.
He said it was essential to learn lessons and to work out what else could have been done to protect the child.
Mr Zahawi is due to make a Commons statement on the case on Monday.
On Sunday afternoon a large crowd gathered outside Tustin’s former address where Arthur was killed, to let off balloons and lay flowers in tribute to the youngster.
Those gathered clapped as the balloons soared into the sky, including a string of letters that read ‘Arthur’, while others people placed posters and drawings on the boarded-up property, in a touching tribute to the six-year-old.
On Saturday, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) confirmed Tustin and Hughes’ sentences are to be reviewed.
The AGO has 28 days from the date of sentence to review a case, assess whether it falls under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, and make a decision as to whether to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal then makes a ruling on cases which have been referred.
A spokesperson for the AGO said: “The Attorney General’s thoughts are with those who loved Arthur.
“I can confirm that the sentences given to Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes have been referred to the Attorney General for review to determine whether they were too low.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “We agree no stone should be left unturned in establishing exactly what took place before Arthur died and whether more could have been done to protect and ultimately save him.
“This must be a watershed moment in which we ask ourselves difficult questions about what we can all do, nationally, locally and in our own communities, to keep children safe.
“We welcome the announcement of a national review of Arthur’s death to identify where we must learn from this terrible case and the associated inspection of partnership working arrangements. The Government must act on the findings.
“Everyone has a role to play in keeping children safe. We need political leadership at a national level – including addressing the significant shortfall facing children’s services. At a local level, we need effective multi-agency early intervention to concerns of abuse.”
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