'This is for Tony': Child abusers face life behind bars under tougher penalties

30 November 2021, 00:42 | Updated: 30 November 2021, 00:49

'Tony's law' will mean stricter penalties for child abuse.
'Tony's law' will mean stricter penalties for child abuse. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Child abusers face life in prison under 'Tony's law', which will see increased penalties for a range of cruelty offences.

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Anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care will face up to life imprisonment – an increase on the current 14-year maximum sentence.

Offences of causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child, and cruelty to a person under 16, will also see tougher penalties – increasing from 10 to 14 years.

Ministers confirmed amendments to deliver ‘Tony’s Law’ would be tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

It follows an ongoing campaign from MP Tom Tugendhat and the family of Tony Hudgell - who was left disabled after suffering abuse at the hands of his birth parents.

Tony was attacked when he was a baby and left with broken fingers and toes, plus torn ligaments in his legs. He was left untreated and in agony for 10 days, the damage meaning that both his legs had to be amputated.

His birth parents were sentenced to the current maximum jail term of 10 years. 

Read more: 'Andrew would be proud': Harper's Law will see criminals who kill police jailed for life

James O'Brien on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The law must provide maximum protection to the most vulnerable and no-one is more vulnerable than a young child.

"So, we are increasing the maximum penalty for child cruelty causing or allowing serious physical harm from 10 years to 14 years, and the maximum penalty for causing or allowing the death of a child from 14 years to life imprisonment.

"I pay tribute to the courage of young Tony Hudgell and his adoptive parents Paula and Mark."

Read more: Raab: Harper’s Law isn’t blurring lines between murder and manslaughter

Tony’s mum, Paula Hudgell, said the family was "delighted" at the progress being made.

"We are delighted that Tony's Law is being backed by the Government," she said. "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.

"This is for Tony and all the babies and children that suffered or lost their lives at the hands of their abusers."

It comes after the Government confirmed that it would also be introducing Harper's Law through an amendment to the same bill.

It will see crooks who kill emergency services workers while committing a crime face life in prison.

The law change marks the end of a two-year campaign by Lissie Harper after her husband, police officer Andrew Harper, was killed in the line of duty while answering a late-night burglary call.