Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ bruises 'ignored' by social services, MPs told

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Anna Fox

By Anna Fox

Published: 28/06/2022

- 17:26

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:55

Conservative MP Caroline Johnson questioned why nobody investigated the extensive bruising on Arthur's back

The Chair of the Government's Safeguarding Review has told MPs that bruising to Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ back was “ignored” by social services.

The shocking statement was delivered by Dr Caroline Johnson, a Conservative MP on the Commons’ Education Select Committee and a consultant paediatrician, who questioned why the bruises were not investigated.

Bruising on the child's back were "much more significant" than on his shins and legs, which can be sustained as a result of play.

A social worker who had seen the bruising on Arthur's body failed to raise an investigation following the findings.

A child protection medical was not conducted following the discovery.

Bruises on Arthur's back were ignored by social services
Bruises on Arthur's back were ignored by social services
Olivia Labinjo-Halcrow

Star Hobson was murdered by her mother's girlfriend in 2020
Star Hobson was murdered by her mother's girlfriend in 2020
West Yorkshire Police

Dr Johnson said there was also an inconsistency between the social worker's report of the bruising on Arthur's back as a "bit of faded bruising" and the photographs of his extensive injuries.

Arthur was murdered by his stepmother, Emma Tustin, at their home in Solihull. She was jailed with a minimum term of 29 years at Coventry Crown Court in December last year.

Thomas Hughes, Arthur's father, was jailed for 21 years after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Sixteen-month-old Star Hobson was murdered by her mother’s girlfriend, Savannah Brockhill, at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in September 2020.

Star’s mother, Frankie Smith, 20, was found guilty of causing or allowing the youngster’s death.

Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, Annie Hudson, told a committee hearing on Children’s Services and the murders of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes that to say Arthur’s bruises were “ignored” rather than missed by social services was a “very fair and appropriate way of describing it”.

The review, published in May, found the fatal abuses suffered by the children “are not isolated incidents” and that concerns raised by family members were disregarded too often.

Various agencies raised the bruising at different times, but involvement of a specialist doctor "absolutely didn’t happen and that was a singular failure without any question”, Ms Hudson said.

Ms Hudson added how there was "too much inconsistency" in the quality of decision-making over child protection cases within the system.

Chair of the Committee, Robert Halfon said due to "poor staffing and lack of oversight, pivotal moments to save Arthur and Star were missed”, adding that Arthur’s school had tried to refer him to mental health support three times.

“These children became invisible to the professionals who could have stepped in at crucial moments to save them,” he said.

Ms Hudson said there were “critical opportunities” where concerns about bruising and injury surfaced.

Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council, said they had “failed in our duty of care to Arthur”.

Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council, said the council had “missed key signs” to protect Star and that the council had been “too positive and optimistic” about Star’s living situation and that her mother and partner’s views were taken at face value.

Social workers were “distracted or dissuaded from probing further” and changes to social workers had had an impact, she said.

No social workers have been sacked as a consequence of either of the two cases.

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