Boris Johnson orders review into Arthur Labinjo-Hughes case

Boris Johnson is ordering a review of lessons to be learnt from the tragic death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has confirmed.

Mr Raab said that the prime minister wanted an assessment of the way how social services, local authorities and criminal justice agencies work alongside one another in cases of vulnerable young children

Speaking to Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Raab said he believed that social workers should take a “more precautionary approach” when considering evidence that children may be at risk inside their own homes.

Arthur’s stepmother, Emma 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. Attorney general Suella Braverman has ordered a review of whether the sentences were too lenient.

Solihull’s Local Child Safeguarding Partnership launched an independent review 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”.

Mr Raab said: “There’ll be a local safeguarding review, which will look at the local authority’s actions, whether any lessons could have been picked up earlier, whether any warning flags could have been put up earlier.

“And, the prime minister’s made clear, as well as that we want to see how social services and the local authorities liaise with the criminal justice agencies and what lessons further we can learn.”

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Mr Raab said that the most vulnerable in society “need to have the maximum protection”, and pointed to almost £5bn of additional money provided by central government to local authorities during the Covid pandemic.

Asked whether blame for Arthur’s death and that of other young children could be placed with social workers’ failure to notice signs of mistreatment in the home, Mr Raab replied:

“There are  multiple dimensions to this. There’s the fact the individuals responsible for this cruelty could be so callous. There is also the local authority response – and I would say that I think the social workers on the frontline do an incredible job.

“One of the things we know about lockdown is that, whilst lots of families enjoyed more time together, for those that are the victims of domestic abuse it has been a very serious time, some of those risks have been magnified.”

Mr Raab said there was no “silver bullet” answer to the problem of child abuse.

“You’ve got to ask how anyone could commit this kind of unimaginable cruelty, why we’ve got families that might countenance – let alone commit – such abuse,” he said.

“It’s right that we look at the criminal justice end and … the job of social workers, particularly those looking at children at particular risk. We need to learn the lessons.”

He rejected suggestions that increased funding was the only answer.

“This is often reduced to the question of resources,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’ve put in £4.8bn – close to £5bn.

“But they do an incredibly difficult job. It’s very finely balanced.

“On the one hand, they need to make sure they’ve got the engagement and relationship with those families and talk to them. On the other hand, of course, the top priority has got to be looking for those risks, reading the signs, which may only be subtle and with the benefit of hindsight be more obvious.

“I do think we’ve got to make sure there is, if you like, 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 signs earlier and better.”


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