What a huge pleasure it is to be here this evening. May I start by paying tribute to some people in the Gallery just above us? Up there we have Paula Hudgell and her family. On her lap, we can see Tony. Tony is four years old, and he is an incredibly courageous young man. He was, sadly, incredibly brutalised by his birth parents, before his real parents took care of him. He was so cruelly treated in their care, and the assault on him was so great, that he lost both his legs. That is an extraordinary situation for anybody in our society to find themselves in, but where it happens to a child, at the hands of their parents, it is a wrong that screams out for justice.
That is why I am here this evening with a petition of 12,000 names—if I may, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will show you just a few of them—that Paula and Tony have collected to ask for a change in the law. How can it be right that, had Tony been an adult, and his attackers been charged with grievous bodily harm, they could have received a life sentence, but because he is a child, and because they were his parents, the maximum sentence was 10 years?
That is clearly wrong, and this petition expresses the wishes of the people not just of Kent, and not just of Kings Hill and Tonbridge and Malling, but of the whole country, who are speaking out for justice, speaking out for Tony, speaking out for the whole Hudgell family and, most of all, speaking out clearly about the wrong that we see today in our country and asking why it is not more severely punished.
Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for letting me lodge this petition this evening. This is the first of a long series of parliamentary steps that I shall take alongside the Hudgells to change the law and to see justice done for children.
Following is the full text of the petition:
[The petition of residents of Tonbridge and Malling,
Declares that the sentence given to the abusers of Tony Hudgell will not act as a serious deterrent considering the life changing injuries Tony suffered at their hands; the reasons for this petition is not to change the sentence already given, but for Parliament to raise the threshold of maximum sentences for future cases.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to introduce tougher sentences for child cruelty offences.
And the petitioners remain, etc.]