Tony's Law: Child abusers could face life behind bars under plans for tougher sentences

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports as tougher sentences on child abusers are proposed

Child abusers in England and Wales could face life behind bars under plans for tougher sentences unveiled by the government.

Under the proposals, anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care will face up to life imprisonment – rather than the current 14-year maximum.

Sentences are also due to go up from 10 to 14 years for people who cause serious harm to children.

The changes, dubbed Tony’s Law, are named after seven-year-old Tony Hudgell, who had both legs amputated in 2017 as a result of abuse suffered at the hands of his birth parents.

Tony's birth parents were sentenced to the current maximum jail term of 10 years the following year.

The changes, dubbed Tony’s Law, were welcomed by the boy’s adopted parents- Paula and Mark Hudgell.

Paula and Mark Hudgell, Tony's adoptive parents, welcomed the changes, which are among a series of measures ministers want to add to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently going through Parliament.

The couple took Tony to meet Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who praised them for their vigorous campaigning for the change in the law.

"Tony's kept us going," Ms Hudgell, from Kings Hill in Kent, said.

"There are an awful lot of stories out there... and the justice isn't enough."

"Hopefully now- especially for all those babies and children that have probably lost their lives as well- this is for them."

Mr Raab paid tribute to the "courage of young Tony Hudgell and his adoptive parents, Paula and Mark".

He 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".

'The law needs to protect the most vulnerable in our society and that is what we are going to do,' Mr Raab said

Ms Hudgell, who said she was "delighted" by the announcement, added 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”.

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 terrible damage meant that both his legs had to be amputated and Tony is now using a wheelchair.

Tony met Justice Secretary Dominic Raab with his parents.

Along with his adoptive parents, Tonbridge MP Tom Tugendhat has been campaigning for Tony's Law.

Ms Hudgell said she was delighted that the law is being backed by the government.

“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," she explained.

“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 Hudgell's fundraising walk. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Tony has gone on to help others with a fundraising walking challenge.

He set out to raise £500 for the hospital that saved his life by walking 10km in 30 days on his prosthetic legs, but ended up raising more than £1 million.

Ministers also confirmed that an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will see offenders who kill an emergency services worker while committing crime being given a mandatory life jail sentence.