Tony's Law: Adopted mother of neglected boy 'over the moon' at law change for child abusers

The maximum sentence for child abusers has been increased to life imprisonment following a four year campaign by a Kent family.

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 biological parents, Jody Simpson and Tony Smith were convicted of assaulting, ill treating and neglecting Tony, and sentenced to the then maximum jail term of 10 years in 2018.

Now aged seven, Tony's adopted parents Paula and Mark Hudgell from Kings Hill, have fought tirelessly for tougher penalties for child cruelty.

The legislation forms part of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Act 2022, and means the maximum sentence for those who abuse children has risen to life in prison.

Reacting to today's announcement, Paula Hudgell said, "I'm absolutely over the moon that today the law is actually in force.

"It's taken us four years to get this far, but actually it was worth every step.

"I'm hoping that it will act as a deterrent knowing that offenders will get a more serious sentence for causing these atrocities.

"This is also been brought in line with other offences for other crimes. And actually a crime against a child is far worse than any other crime."

  • Paula Hudgell says Tony is now 'thriving' at 7-years-old

Paula added: "It's been an emotional rollercoaster all the way through to be honest.

"When we started out - it was with a little paper petition on the streets that was then handed into parliament by our MP Tom Tugendhat. He's been by my side all the way.

"There have been times where we thought we weren't going to get anywhere, but we have, and it's absolutely wonderful. It's great to make the change."

In June 2020 Tony raised more than £1 million for Evelina London Children’s Hospital which saved his life.

Aged five at the time, Tony took inspiration from Captain Tom Moore during lockdown and walked 10km throughout the month while learning to walk on prosthetic legs, to thank those who looked after him.

Tony's mum Paula said that fundraising effort has helped raise their profile for the law change.

She said: "How many 7-year-olds can turn around and say they're a law maker? That's a huge legacy for Tony.

"Without everybody's support we wouldn't have got this far and been able to change the law."

Tony Hudgell completing part of his 10km charity walk in June 2020.

Paula has described the new sentencing powers as a "major step forward" but says she is also now campaigning for a child cruelty register, similar to the sex offenders register.

"Once these perpetrators come out of prison and they finish their license, they are free to do whatever they want, but there is still a risk to any child around.

"Your neighbour could be someone that could cause serious harm to a child, and you would allow them to babysit without truly knowing their background.

"So there is a lot more groundwork that needs to be done in social services to protect children, right from the beginning, so that actually we don't end up getting to the cases like Tony's, Star's or Arthur's.

"There's a whole new reform needed really."