Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Daniel McCrossan Daniel McCrossan Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:00, 6 December 2021

I raise the heartbreaking story of the death of young Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. It is a case that has gripped the nation, caused severe heartbreak and resulted in immediate calls for action from authorities across these islands.

When I listened to the news report, I was disturbed to hear that child's cries for food — "Pease, someone, feed me. No one is going to feed me" — and that he thought that no one loved him. The abuse that that child suffered at the hands of his father and his partner was beyond words; absolutely brutal. The six-year-old was tortured and killed. Arthur died of a head injury on 17 June 2020. Emma Tustin, who was his father's partner, shook him and banged his head on a hard surface after poisoning him with salt. I have never seen anything quite like the details of that case. I spent Saturday with two of my nephews, one aged 4 and the other aged 6. I looked at them and thought, "How on earth could anyone harm such an innocent, helpless child?". He was one of the most vulnerable in society. His daddy was supposed to take care of him but he left him to suffer incredibly horrific abuse.

Arthur was found to have 130 injuries after being routinely beaten, forced to stand for hours on his own, starved and dehydrated. Concerns were raised by his paternal grandmother to social services. There were found to be no safeguarding concerns at that point, even though his body was beaten, battered and bruised.

As I stand here, I wonder how many other children there are who have dropped below the radar and we do not know about? How many children in Northern Ireland are in homes where they suffer such horrendous abuse? In the House, we disagree on many things politically, but I know that we stand united in full support of that poor child and his wider family and that we offer them our thoughts and prayers. As legislators, we have the privileged position of being able to change legislation to help and protect people, and save people's lives. I would hope that the House would unite to ensure that we, too, review the safeguarding mechanisms that are in place, respond to the call for greater funding to ensure that there are mechanisms in place, and ensure that no child ever suffers as that poor child did last year.

Some Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for that.