Social work

Murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: Case Review to Consider Social Work Lessons

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (Photo: West Midlands Police)

A case review will examine the lessons for social workers in the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughe, 6 years olds, following a “campaign of cruelty” waged by her stepmother and father.

Emma Tustin was convicted of murdering her stepson, who died from a severe blow to the head in June 2020, while Arthur’s father Thomas Hughes was convicted of manslaughter. Both were sentenced to life in prison today.

Coventry Crown Court heard that Solihull Council social workers visited the boy’s home two months before his death after his grandmother raised concerns, but said they did not had found no reason to worry, according to BBC News reports.

After the boy’s death, police found a CCTV camera installed at Tustin and Hughes’ home and evidence from the couple’s cellphones, which convincingly proved that Tustin had inflicted a fatal head injury and no then hadn’t called an ambulance for 12 minutes.

The footage also showed Tustin and Hughes forced Arthur to remain isolated for hours and punished him for unauthorized movement. As a result of such evidence, Tustin, 32, and Hughes, 29, were also convicted of multiple child cruelty charges.

The case sparked much discussion in the media about the child welfare system and why Arthur was not protected from his abusers.

Solihull Safeguarding Children Partnership commissioned a review of local child protection practices to examine the role of services and learn lessons.

‘missed bruises’

The court heard that a Solihull council social worker visited the boy’s home on April 17, 2020 and found a slight yellow bruise on his back, but that he otherwise appeared ‘happy, playful and loud’ . according to a previous BBC News report.

Later, the practitioner was shown a photo taken the day before by his grandmother that showed bruises on her shoulder and could not explain how it was missed.

A spokesperson for Solihull City Council said: “This terrible tragedy has had a shocking impact on Arthur’s family and the entire community. We send our deepest condolences to all concerned.

“The circumstances of her death will now be the subject of an independent review – the local review of child protection practices – and it would be clearly inappropriate for counsel to comment before the findings of that review.”

“No stone not returned”

Stephen Cullen, Independent Teller at Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Partnership, said: “Our focus now will be to work with relevant partners to identify and respond to any learning from this tragic case. “

An NSPCC spokesperson said the pain and suffering inflicted by Hughes and Tustin on Arthur before killing him “defies almost all belief.”

“The review of child protection practices must now make every effort to establish exactly what happened before Arthur’s death and whether more could have been done to protect and ultimately save him. It should also inform a broader discussion of how we prevent these appalling cases of child cruelty, ”they said.

In a statement, Social Work England said: “We are deeply shocked by the events surrounding the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and extend our condolences to all who knew him. In such a complex and tragic case, there are clearly many different lines of inquiry. We will work closely with all partners and all those involved in the case. “

Repeated assaults

Arthur died in hospital at 1 a.m. on June 17 last year with bruises to his head and body, bleeding gums and underweight.

Paramedics had found the boy unconscious with a neighbor performing CPR on him the day before at his Cranmore Road home, Shirley.

Police arrested Tustin and Hughes on suspicion of murder due to the nature of the boy’s injuries and their varying accounts of the events leading up to his death. The two claimed the boy hit his head on the ground and misbehaved

Officers examined footage from a CCTV camera installed in the home as well as videos, audio files, photos and text found on Tustin and Hughes’ cell phones.

Police said this evidence revealed Tustin and Hughes repeatedly assaulted the boy and forced him to stand for hours.

Meanwhile, medical experts have determined that the boy’s death was caused by head trauma inflicted by an adult, most likely after being vigorously shaken and his head repeatedly knocked against a hard surface.

An autopsy later revealed that Arthur had more than 100 marks and bruises on his head, body and limbs, including bruises of different ages.

Hospital tests also showed the boy had abnormally high salt levels in his system, suggesting he may have been poisoned with contaminated food or water over a longer period.

“Campaign of cruelty”

Detective Inspector Laura Harrison said: “An innocent boy has been subjected to a campaign of cruelty by the very people who were meant to love and protect him.

“Despite the lies they told, we carefully built a case against them both. We were able to grab their phones and track down the messages they were exchanging that showed their anger towards Arthur.

“As part of our investigations, we were able to access their home where we found a CCTV camera installed in their living room. And the footage from that helped us get a feel for the grim reality of Arthur’s life inside this house.

Impact of containment

One thing the review is likely to consider is the impact of lockdown restrictions on the risk to Arthur, a point made by the Association of Child Protection Professionals (AoCPP).

“Arthur’s situation appears to have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the impact the lockdown restrictions have had on vulnerable children and social services,” he said. “It happened at a time when departments needed to quickly change the way they work.

“Taking children like Arthur out of the school routine ran the risk of making them invisible to professionals and services and made it very difficult to access other possible avenues of intervention. “

The number of child deaths and serious incidents reported by boards rose by a fifth from 2019-20 to 2020-21, according to data from the Ministry of Education, and Ofsted warned that the start lockdown exacerbated the risk to children.

The AoCPP added: “We have evidence of increased damage and abuse during the first restrictions and the Covid lockdown, and that, coupled with the need to quickly overhaul the way services were delivered, created the perfect storm resulting in a delay in recognition and evaluation. many cases.

Structural issues and cuts

The case also sparked reflection on the more entrenched challenges facing child protection.

In a discussion on The world of Radio 4 in one, children’s services counselors and former local community directors Ray Jones and Alan Wood disagreed on the root causes of risk to children.

Jones, professor emeritus of social work at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London, said the key problem was service cuts over the past decade.

“Police officers, health visitors, community nurses, social workers are all in trouble because of 10 years of service cuts. This makes it difficult for us to do the job that we need to do.

“We need to have time to get to know families and find out what’s going on, we need time to communicate well with each other and share information. And all of this is compressed when the imperative is to close the job to take charge of the new job to come. “

Wood said that while there was certainly a need for “significant additional investment” in children’s services, it was not the only cause.

A specialized child protection service mentioned

He said a specialized child protection service should be considered to address barriers to multi-agency work and skills gaps.

“There are barriers between our professionals, between the police, between mental health workers, between social workers from local authorities, teachers, and we always struggle with those barriers, and the type of skills and techniques which we need to work with children in very vulnerable and dangerous positions with families.

“I think we need to consider whether we should specialize more in dedicated professional children, people who would have skills in all of the professional areas that I mentioned. I’m just worried that organizational imperatives, police, health, local authorities, etc., cause people to think organizationally first before solving the child’s need.

He asked the head of the care review, Josh MacAlister, to look into the case of specialist child protection services in his investigation. In his change cases report, published in June, the review found that there was a tension between the family support and child protection roles of children’s services, and raised the question of whether they should be separated.

“Danger of fragmentation of child protection”

However, responding to Wood, Jones said, “I would be very wary of structural change – it’s disruptive, it takes time to set in and often we don’t give it time to deliver results until we have more. structural change.

“I think there is also a question of thinking that we should separate child protection from what social workers do, what police do, what health visitors do every day. These are the people who need to know what’s going on in families… and not just the eyes and the years, but the people who need to take action when they have concerns. If we separate child protection as a separate activity, we will actually find that we have missed a lot of children that we should be worried about because they are never known to child protection.