Star Hobson murder: Mother's 'unduly lenient' jail sentence referred to Court of Appeal

12 January 2022, 17:07 | Updated: 12 January 2022, 17:45

Star Hobson's mother Frankie Smith (left) has had her eight-year jail sentence referred to the Court of Appeal.
Star Hobson's mother Frankie Smith (left) has had her eight-year jail sentence referred to the Court of Appeal. Picture: West Yorkshire Police

By Sophie Barnett

The eight-year jail sentence handed to Frankie Smith for causing or allowing her 16-month-old daughter Star Hobson's death has been referred to the Court of Appeal for being "unduly lenient".

The Attorney General Suella Braverman has referred Smith's sentence under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme.

The 20-year-old was given eight years in prison for causing or allowing her death when she was sentenced in December.

Her former partner, Savannah Brockhill, 28, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years for the cruel murder of Star, who was just 16 months old when she was killed following months of physical assaults and psychological harm.

The jury heard in December that Star lost half the blood in her body after a fatal punch or kick damaged her internal organs.

She was taken to hospital from the flat where she lived with Smith in Wesley Place, Keighley, on September 22, 2020, but her injuries were "utterly catastrophic" and "unsurvivable", prosecutors told the two-month trial.

Read more: Woman laughs before being jailed for life over 'cruel' murder of one-year-old Star Hobson

Read more: Star, 1, murdered by mum's partner after 'shambolic' social services response

Star Hobson's great-grandfather says reaction of social services was 'shambolic'

Mrs Justice Lambert, sentencing, said: "The level of force required to inflict these injuries must have been massive - similar to those forces associated with a road traffic accident.

"Only you both know what triggered that fatal assault. The violent attack which led to Star's death was not, however, an isolated event."

Justice Lambert said Star endured two brain injuries, numerous rib fractures, "the fracture and refracture of her leg and a skull fracture".

Prosecutors described how the injuries that caused Star's death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity "caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen".

Read more: Star Hobson: The five warning signs social services had to protect tragic one-year-old

Suella Braverman said the case was "tragic and extremely upsetting" and she believes Smith's sentence was "unduly lenient".

But she said she could not recommend any increase to the sentence imposed on Brockhill, who was handed a life sentence.

Nick Ferrari hears from Star Hobson's babysitter

The Attorney General said: "I can only challenge a sentence if it is not just lenient but unduly so, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences reasonably available in the circumstances of the offence.

"The threshold is a high one, and the test was not met in this case."

The case, which echoes that of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes who was murdered by his stepmother, has raised questions over the response from the social services.

Read more: Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Grandfather says 'life should mean life' for his killers

It was heard in court they received five separate reports from worried friends and family of Star but repeatedly concluded there was no cause for concern.

Star Hobson - the 999 call Savannah Brockhill made to the ambulance service

Following the sentencing, Boris Johnson told MPs: "I would just want to say that I think the whole House will once again be filled with incredulity at the cruelty of people who can perpetrate a child killing like this, but also sadness and bewilderment that it could not have been prevented.

"We will appoint... a commissioner to assess the relevant council - Bradford's - capability and capacity to improve on their findings and they will report in January.

"This will also feed into the report that we have commissioned on the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. I say to those who are responsible in the authorities concerned, that we will not hesitate to remove service control if that is what is necessary to drive the improvements that we need to see."