The family of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the six-year-old boy murdered by his stepmother after months of torture and abuse, said they fear more children will die unless there is a “total reform of social services”.
Relatives added they were disappointed with the scale of the response undertaken since Arthur’s death, particularly after a national review found local child protection failures reflected national shortcomings .
“The public was traumatized, as much as we were, hearing everything that happened to Arthur, and we believe the action taken did not match that,” said Bernie Hughes, Arthur’s cousin. “They need to reform the whole service.”
She said the family had been frustrated over the past year by reports in the media of other children who had died of abuse or neglect, such as Star Hobson, Kyrell Matthews and Logan Mwangi.
“It leaves me speechless. I feel the same way about any kid, and I feel like the list goes on,” Hughes said. talk, but no one wants to take action or make any meaningful change.”
She sets up a charity in Arthur’s name, called Arthur’s Angels, to advocate for better child protection and social service reform.
Hughes wants to see the introduction of unannounced visits in cases involving children under 10, after it was revealed that Arthur’s stepmother, Emma Tustin, coached him on what it had to be said before a planned visit by Solihull social services two months before his death in June 2020.
The family have also campaigned for social workers to be given body cameras to record visits, which Solihull council chief executive Nick Page also backed.
After a trial last year, Tustin was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum sentence of 29 years for Arthur’s murder, while the boy’s father, Thomas Hughes, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for manslaughter.
Hughes, who is Arthur’s cousin on her mother’s side, said she “knows the perpetrators are responsible” and did not directly blame the social workers involved, but thought better training and resources could have saved him.
A year after the trial that revealed the horrific treatment Arthur endured before his death, which included physical assault, salt poisoning and being forced to remain isolated for up to 14 hours a day, Hughes said the family was still debating.
“We were heartbroken. And it seemed people were insinuating that Arthur was unloved,” she said. “Arthur was idolized, on both sides of the family. And nothing I do can bring him back, but if we can implement some kind of change in his name, it might bring some comfort.
Family members raised concerns about Arthur with police and social services before his murder but felt the lockdown had left them powerless to intervene further, which they all struggled with to accept.
“I was in foster care myself, and what really crucified me when I learned about what happened to Arthur was that I actually took care of other people’s children, and yet I couldn’t help my own family,” she said. “It cut very deeply.”
She fondly recalls the time she spent with Arthur when he came to visit her mother’s family in London, where Hughes lives.
“He was an angelic child, never misbehaving, just a sweet little boy,” she said. “It seems like an insignificant thing, but one of the most painful things is seeing the milestones in your life that were posted on Facebook and knowing there won’t be any more.”
For now, she is embarking on establishing Arthur’s Angels as a registered charity and trying to save more children: “It’s not about abducting children or attacking everything the world and assuming that everyone is guilty. It’s about trying to catch those who keep sneaking in.