Tonbridge MP hands in child cruelty sentencing petition
by Andy Tong | 16th January 2019
AN ADOPTIVE family’s fight for stiffer sentences on those who perpetrate acts of cruelty against children was taken to Parliament last week.
Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge & Malling, handed in a petition with 12,000 signatures calling for an increase on the current 10-year maximum term.
The petition was set up by Paula Hudgell of Kings Hill, whose family adopted Tony after his birth parents ‘left him at death’s door’.
Jody Simpson, 24, and Tony Smith, 47, carried out the attacks in Maidstone in 2014. Tony, now four, was just 41 days old when he was admitted to hospital with sepsis, multi-organ failure and multiple bone fractures and limb dislocations. He had to have both legs amputated as a result of his injuries.
The couple were found guilty of two charges, causing or allowing serious harm to a child and neglect, and were sentenced to 10 years and five years on each count. The terms were set to run concurrently rather than consecutively.
Initially the Crown Prosecution Service was not going to press charges but Mr Tugendhat intervened to help ensure Tony’s birth parents were prosecuted.
'Paula and her family are amazing and the work they’re putting in to change the law and protect others is inspiring'
The father-of-two will continue to lobby MPs on what he described as an ‘incredibly important issue’.
Mr Tugendhat said: “Paula and her family are amazing. Their love and care for Tony shows they are his real family and the work they’re putting in to change the law and protect others is inspiring.
“The number of signatures they have collected shows just how much support they have. I will keep working with them to make sure abusers like those who hurt Tony serve sentences that truly reflect the crimes they have committed.”
Tony, Mrs Hudgell, 51, her husband Mark, 54, and her seven other children were in the gallery of the House of Commons when Mr Tugendhat handed in the petition on January 9.
He told the MPs: “Above us up there we have Paula Hudgell and her family, and on her lap you can see Tony.
“Tony is four years old, and Tony is an incredibly courageous young man because he was sadly, incredibly brutalised by his birth parents before his real parents took care of him.
“Now that is an extraordinary situation for anybody in our society to find themselves in, but for a child at the hands of their parents it is a wrong that screams out for justice. That’s why I’m here.”
He added: “How can it be right that, had he been an adult and his attackers been charged with grievous bodily harm, they could have received a life sentence but because he was a child and because they were his parents, the maximum sentence was ten years? That is clearly wrong.”
Mrs Hudgell was taken aback by the support for her petition: “In the beginning I wanted a few thousand people to sign it, but when it got to five thousand I thought, ‘I’ve got to get it to ten’.
“I think anything to do with children always strikes a chord with members of the public. And Kings Hill is a close-knit community.
“His case was well known locally, and people were enraged, saying the judge should have given them more. Then they were shocked to hear that was the maximum. No one refused to sign it.”
Mrs Hudgell was ‘horrified’ when the CPS failed to prosecute the birth parents. “They said there was a lack of evidence, and also conflicting issues from the Family Court, like for instance that Jody Simpson had a low IQ and also that they didn’t know which one had done it.
“Certain things were said to me after I appealed the decision. The first time I met the father he said it had been a terrible accident. The CPS didn’t know about that, as well as other information.”
She added: “My biggest issue was the neglect – they left him for 10 days, that’s why he’s in the situation he’s in. The infection left him at death’s door. I found that very difficult to cope with.”
Tony, who is known as ‘Bear’ by his family, is now making good progress both physically and psychologically – and even makes fun of the fact that he has no legs.
'He’s a really happy boy, he never complains and he’s always joking. He’s got a wicked sense of humour'
“Cognitively he’s up there with his peers, though he did have global delay due to the amount of time he spent in hospital,” said Mrs Hudgell.
“He shuffles around and climbs everything, but he can’t stand unaided. We hope one day that prosthetics will work. He’s very young, there are technological changes happening all the time.”
“He’s a really happy boy, he never complains and he’s always joking. He’s got a wicked sense of humour, he jokes about his legs all the time.
“He’ll say, ‘I’m going to get my shoes – oh no, I haven’t got any feet’. When other children used to come up and ask him why he didn’t have any legs he would say ‘the shark ate them’ or ‘I left them on the slide’. We don’t want it to be covered up.”
Mrs Hudgell paid tribute to the work her MP has done on Tony’s behalf. “He’s been absolutely amazing from day one. I was horrified that the CPS wouldn’t charge them, and he got straight on to them. I’m sure he got them to think again.
“There have been too many other cases – there was another little boy from Tonbridge [Bailey Smyth-Osborne]. This happens far more than we think and it doesn’t get talked about. It gets brushed under the carpet.”
Related: Tonbridge parents sentenced for harming baby boy