People who abuse children could be sentenced to life behind bars under new plans backed by the UK government.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which is currently going through Parliament – would see an increase in maximum punishments for several child cruelty offences, and the tougher planned sentences could mean that anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care, will face up to life imprisonment.
Child abusers currently only receive a 14-year maximum sentence.
The new proposed bill comes after Tom Tugendhat – Conservative MP for Tongbridge and Malling – lead a campaign for the changes, which are also known as Tony’s Law, in support of the adoptive family of seven-year-old Tony Hudgell.
When Tony was a baby, he was attacked by his birth parents and left with broken fingers and toes, plus torn ligaments in his legs – however, he was left untreated and in pain for 10 days, and the delay in getting treatment meant that both his legs had to be amputated in 2017, which has left him wheelchair-bound.
His birth parents were sentenced to the current maximum jail term of 10 years.
But Tony’s adoptive mother Paula Hudgell said that more has to be done to protect vulnerable children, adding that the planned tougher sentences are for “Tony and all the babies and children that suffered or lost their lives at the hands of their abusers”.
“We are delighted that Tony’s Law is being backed by the government,” Ms Hudgell said in a statement regarding the proposed bill.
“It’s been our hope since those who abused our son were jailed in 2018 that more could be done to protect other children, the most vulnerable members of our society.
“I can’t thank the public enough for the support they have shown through this nearly four-year campaign, but especially thanks to Tom Tugendhat who has worked tirelessly with me, also my friend Julia Roberts, a court reporter and my friends and family.
“It was definitely a team effort.”
Tony’s Law will increase the maximum penalties for child cruelty offences including:
- For causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult from 14 years’ imprisonment to life imprisonment.
- For causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child or vulnerable adult from 10 to 14 years’ imprisonment.
- For cruelty to a person under 16 from 10 to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said the changes were needed because “the law must provide maximum protection to the most vulnerable and no-one is more vulnerable than a young child”.
He added: “I pay tribute to the courage of young Tony Hudgell and his adoptive parents, Paula and Mark.”
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