Child Cruelty Offences: Sentencing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:59 pm on 11 September 2020.

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Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 2:59, 11 September 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat for securing this important debate. I am conscious that I have only a few minutes to do justice to a very important subject, so I would like to offer him the opportunity to discuss the matter further with me or another Minister in the Department.

This story is horrific and tragic. No child should suffer what Tony sustained at the hands of his biological parents. Like my hon. Friend, as a parent I cannot begin to imagine the pain inflicted on Tony, and the physical and emotional impact that it has had on his life. I pay credit to the work that his parents, Paula and Mark, have done in campaigning on this issue. I know that they have worked hard, along with my hon. Friend, to draw this matter to the attention of the authorities in a number of ways.

The offences of child cruelty under which Tony’s parents were sentenced are not the only penalties available in such a case. A person can also be prosecuted for number of other offences—for example, an offender can be prosecuted for GBH or attempted murder, and both those offences carry the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Additionally, if the victim of a serious assault is a child, that is clearly an aggravating factor and likely to lead to an increase in any sentence. It follows that the law and penalties for the most serious cases are the same for children as for adults. Indeed, sentences imposed for offences against children can often be higher.

Since my hon. Friend first brought this matter to our attention, my officials have been looking at sentences for child cruelty, and kept them under review. Statistics show that there is currently no pressure on the maximum penalty for the offence of child cruelty because, as my hon. Friend pointed out, fortunately there are not many of these cases—