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Tougher sentences needed for child cruelty offences

An MP has urged tougher sentences for perpetrators of child cruelty.

Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling Tom Tugendhat has introduced a 10-minute rule bill in parliament which calls for the maximum sentence for child cruelty to be extended.

"It’s time we gave judges discretion to award an appropriate penalty for this heinous offence," Tom Tugendhat told parliament.

The MP referred to a case involving a child called Tony who, shortly after he was born, was beaten so badly by his biological parents that he was left with broken legs and toes, fingers and hands. Tony was then left for 10 days in agony.

Baby Tony was so cruelly treated by his biological parents that he lost both his legs and his hearing was badly damaged

According to the NSPCC, the police recorded almost 17,000 child cruelty and neglect offences in 2017-18.

"That’s why I’m introducing a 10 Minute Rule Bill on 12 February calling for the maximum sentence for child cruelty to be extended. It is currently 10-years but the limit is wrong. In cases like Tony’s, who nearly died at the hands of those he should have been able to trust the most, it cannot be right that a serious assault on an adult would get a tougher sentence than an attack on a child," said Mr Tugendhat.

He explained that for the same offences in 2017, 839 cautions were issued, 784 offenders were prosecuted and 609 offenders were convicted meaning there was a very high conviction rate of 78%. The average sentence of the 150 offenders given immediate custody was just over two years.

"Not all would deserve the maximum tariff so it is appropriate that judges should have the discretion to sentence appropriately. The bill I’m introducing wouldn’t do that, instead it would allow judges in the most extreme cases, like Tony’s, to make sure they were able to reflect the horror of the crime in the punishment," Mr Tugendhat added.

"To do this I propose amending two Acts, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 and the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 extending the term of the relevant sentences. These amendments are not intended to be used often. I hope they will never be needed at all, but when abuse is better described as torture, how can we allow grievous bodily harm to have a maximum tariff of life or 16 years and child cruelty 10 years?" he concluded.

 

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