Call for whole life sentence to be considered for murderer of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Rosie Dowsing reports from the Court of Appeal.

A barrister has said that the murderer of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes should be considered for a whole-life order.

That would mean Emma Tustin would spend the rest of her days in jail, without the opportunity for parole.

The cases of Arthur's father Thomas Hughes, and his partner Emma Tustin, are being reviewed by judges at the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, to ensure their sentences for his abuse and murder are long enough.

Last year, Thomas Hughes was sentenced to 21 years in prison for his manslaughter. He appeared via video link at court, and is also appealing his sentence.

His father's partner, Emma Tustin, was sentenced to a minimum term of 29 years in jail in December last year, after being convicted of his murder. She declined to attend court today.

Emma Tustin (left) and her partner Thomas Hughes were found guilty of killing Arthur Labinjo-Hughes Credit: West Midlands Police

'Systematic brutality amounting to torture'

Tom Little QC, said Tustin's case "merited at the very least consideration of a whole-lifeorder".

He 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."

In written documents he said, "In the context of sadistic conduct that preceded the murder, it is submitted that murder itself was sadistically motivated.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Johnson at the hearing Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

"This was not a case involving episodic criminality before the murder but systematic brutality amounting to torture."

However Mary Prior QC, for Tustin, said the sentencing judge took a "fair andproper approach in this very difficult case".

Judges have been asked to consider a whole life sentence for Emma Tustin due to the evidence of continuous cruelty.

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.

A family handout photo of Arthur. Credit: West Midlands Police/PA

What happened to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes?

Six-year-old Arthur died in June 2020 from a brain injury, following months of torture at his home in Solihull.

A court heard Arthur died because Emma Tustin violently shook him and repeatedly banged his head - likely against the hallway wall, floor or door.

She called 999 some time after he collapsed, but claimed his injuries were self-inflicted.

She then took a photograph of Arthur as he lay dying in the hallway of her home, and sent the picture to her partner, Thomas Hughes, Arthur's father.

His body was covered in 130 bruises, and a post mortem examination showed he'd suffered 125 separate injuries as well as being poisoned with salt.

During lockdown, he and his father had moved in with Emma Tustin, where their campaign of cruelty began.

The hearing is being held alongside hearings for killers including Wayne Couzens, the former police officer who raped and murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard after he abducted her in south London on March 3, 2021.

The hearing is due to finish on Thursday, with a decision expected at a later date.

After Arthur's death an inspection into child safeguarding services in Solihull found processes need to be sped up once a concern is raised, and urgent action was needed to improve their record keeping.

A national review is also due to report back this month.