Tony’s Law update will empower judges to hand out toughest jail terms to abusers
Sentencing guidelines for people convicted of child cruelty have been updated to ensure judges can hand down tougher terms following the case of a boy abused so badly by his birth parents that he needed both legs amputated.
Tougher sentencing for child abusers came into force in June, meaning anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their household can now be given up to life in prison – increased from the previous 14-year maximum.
Now, under new guidance for judges to go along with the changes brought in by the Act, those guilty of causing or allowing a child to die can be sentenced in a range of up to 18 years in prison.
Those convicted of causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm and for cruelty to a child can be given a sentence of up to 12 years in custody.
These changes will empower judges to hand out the toughest sentences to those who cause harm to a child, keeping these criminals behind bars for longer
The update, published on Tuesday and which will come into effect from April 1, follows sentencing changes under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022, known as “Tony’s Law”, after campaigning by Tony Hudgell’s adoptive family.
Tony, now aged eight, was 41 days old when he was assaulted by his birth parents, an attack which caused multiple fractures, dislocations and blunt trauma to the face, leading to organ failure, toxic shock and sepsis.
He was left untreated and in agony for 10 days, and due to the extent of his injuries both his legs had to be amputated.
Jody Simpson, 29, and her partner Anthony Smith were jailed for 10 years in 2018.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We introduced Tony’s Law to ensure justice was delivered for children who faced monstrous abuse at the hands of those who should have cared for and protected them.
“These changes will empower judges to hand out the toughest sentences to those who cause harm to a child, keeping these criminals behind bars for longer.”
The new maximum penalties will apply to offences committed on or after June 28, 2022.
The revisions published today will ensure that the courts can reflect the new penalties consistently and transparently and will have available to them the full range of possible sentences when dealing with the worst cases of child cruelty
The statutory maximum penalty for causing or allowing a child to die was raised from 14 years to life imprisonment under the PCSC Act 2022 last year, which also raised the statutory maximum penalties for causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm and cruelty to a child from 10 years to 14 years’ imprisonment.
A new “very high culpability” level means the guidelines take into account the increased maximum sentences and will help the courts take a consistent approach to sentencing the most serious cases of child cruelty, the Sentencing Council said.
Its chairman Lord Justice William Davis said: “Child cruelty offences are by their very nature targeted against particularly vulnerable people – children – and it is important that courts have up-to-date guidelines that reflect the penalties set by Parliament.
“The revisions published today will ensure that the courts can reflect the new penalties consistently and transparently and will have available to them the full range of possible sentences when dealing with the worst cases of child cruelty.”
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