Arthur Labinjo-Hughes ‘faced systematic brutality amounting to torture’ as killers appeal sentence

The sentences of various notorious criminals are being appealed, as ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes faced “systematic brutality amounting to torture” leading up to his death, the Court of Appeal has heard during a review of the prison sentences of five killers.

Senior judges are hearing challenges or appeals to the prison sentences of the notorious criminals, including the whole-life terms of former police officer Wayne Couzens and double murderer Ian Stewart.

Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes, who killed Arthur, are also having their sentences reviewed.

Arthur suffered an unsurvivable brain injury while in the sole care of Tustin, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years after assaulting him on June 16, 2020.

Tustin and Arthur’s father, Hughes, who was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter, are appealing against the length of their sentences which are also being challenged as being unduly lenient.

On Wednesday, Tom Little QC, representing the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), said Tustin’s case “merited at the very least consideration of a whole-life order”.

He said: “This was, we accept, not a straightforward sentencing exercise. The trial was plainly a harrowing one for all concerned.”

Mr Little said Arthur was “subjected to the most unimaginable suffering”, adding: “This was an extremely serious example of child murder against the background of that cruelty.”

However Mary Prior QC, for Tustin, said the sentencing judge took a “fair and proper approach in this very difficult case”.

Ms Prior said the “toxicity of the relationship” between Tustin and Hughes created a scenario where they both abused Arthur.

“At the very least, Thomas Hughes was encouraging Emma Tustin to be cruel, to assault and to ill-treat his son,” she added.

Tustin and Hughes were jailed for a combined 50 years for killing Arthur Credit: PA/West Mids Police

What is the unduly lenient sentence scheme?

You can ask for someone’s Crown Court sentence to be reviewed if you think it is too low.

The process is carried out by the Attorney General’s Office. It only applies to serious crimes like murder, rape and terror-related offences.

Your request has to be submitted within 28 days of the sentence being handed down. It will then be decided if the request will be sent to the Court of Appeal.

Judges are also considering the sentences handed out to three other notorious killers.

Wayne Couzens

Ex-Pc Couzens, 49, was handed a whole-life term last year for the rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard after he abducted her in south London on 3 March, 2021.

Sentencing Couzens, Lord Justice Fulford said the circumstances of the case were “devastating, tragic and wholly brutal” and were so exceptional that it warranted a whole-life order.

It was the first time the sentence had been imposed for a single murder of an adult not committed in the course of a terror attack.

A bearded Couzens, wearing a grey jumper, appeared by video-link from HMP Frankland at the start of Wednesday’s hearing ahead of his appeal against his whole-life term.

Jordan Monaghan

Jordan Monaghan Credit: Lancashire Police/PA

Wednesday’s hearing also heard arguments over the sentence of Jordan Monaghan, who was handed a minimum term of 40 years at Preston Crown Court after he murdered two of his children and his new partner.

Monaghan was jailed in December after smothering his 24-day-old daughter Ruby as she slept in a Moses basket on New Year’s Day 2013.

Eight months later he smothered his 21-month-old son Logan, and six years after that he murdered his new partner Evie Adams with a drugs overdose.

Mr Little said Monaghan’s murders or attempted murders were of “exceptionally high” seriousness, with “no mitigation here at all”.

He told the court: “The clear rationale or intention behind these offences was to try to distract his then partner from his gambling habit and maintain control over her despite her repeated attempts to free herself from him.”

Mr Little added of Ms Adams: “If that was not enough, the third murder was one involving significant planning and preparation involving a painful death having, in short, been tricked to take strong forms of medication which ultimately killed her, and that was committed whilst on police bail.”

Benjamin Myers QC, for Monaghan, stressed the high bar needed for a whole-life term, which means the criminal would die in prison.

He told the court: “A whole-life order is an extreme sentence for an extreme level of offending.

“There has to be some caution not to apply whole-life orders with a readiness that would lead to an escalation in their use.”

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart Credit: Hertfordshire Police/PA

Double murderer Ian Stewart, who was convicted of murdering his first wife six years before he went on to murder his fiancee, is also due to appeal against his whole-life order.

Stewart killed 51-year-old children’s book author Helen Bailey in 2016, and dumped her body in the cesspit of the £1.5 million home they shared in Royston in Hertfordshire.

A trial previously heard it was most likely she was suffocated while sedated by drugs, and Stewart was found guilty of her murder in 2017.

After this conviction, police investigated the 2010 death of Stewart’s first wife, Diane Stewart, 47.

The cause of her death was recorded at the time as sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, but in February Stewart was found guilty of her murder.

Stewart, 61, will attempt to appeal their whole-life orders but did not attend Wednesday's hearing.

The five judges are expected to give their decisions at a later date.