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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge Column - Tony Hudgell Campaign - 19 July 2018

You may well recognise the name, or bright and happy face of Tony Hudgell, or his adoptive parents Paula and Mark, who live in Kings Hill. To anyone who sees them now they look like any other happy family with Tony, a happy three-year-old child. But sadly, this young boy had a truly shocking start to life.

In February this year, Tony Smith and Jody Simpson were found guilty of "Causing or Allowing Serious Harm to a Child & Child Cruelty", to their 41 day old son, Tony. That charge doesn’t begin to describe the pain those two people caused a child. At the hands of his parents, Tony suffered multiple fractures of his limbs, dislocations of various joints, blunt trauma to his face and multiple other injuries. His parents waited 10 days before they took him to hospital. When he was there, and just over 5 weeks old, Tony developed sepsis, toxic shock and multi organ failure. Thankfully, the outstanding work of the NHS allowed him to survive. But sadly that was not the end of the suffering caused to Tony, and just last year as a result of the injuries and infections he had sustained as a baby, both of his legs were amputated. Going forward, Tony will still need multiple operations for the rest of life.

For all the violence, suffering, and pain that two parents inflicted on their 5-week-old son, they were handed just ten years in prison. They’ll only be in prison for few years but for Tony, it’s a lifetime.

Five months on, and Jody Simpson is appealing the length of her sentence. For the Hudgell family, this came as a shock. They had to fight hard for Tony’s torturers to be prosecuted in the first place. When I first met them the Crown Prosecution Service said there wasn’t enough evidence. Together we worked with the Kent Police to make them change their minds.

Tony’s real family Paula and Mark aren’t objecting to the appeal, they’re trying to ensure that more children like Tony are protected. That’s why they’re campaigning for longer maximum sentences. They’re right.

In March I asked the Ministry of Justice to allow judges to give longer sentences for these abhorrent crimes. So far, they’re not shifting. When we see cases like this, that is not good enough. Tony Smith and Jody Simpson received the maximum sentence available, but they’ll be out by the next World Cup. That’s not right.

We need change, and the Hudgell family need more support. I will continue fighting for them, but we can’t do it without your help. They have already created an online petition calling for the Secretary of State for implement tougher sentences for child neglect and cruelty, and need as many signatures as they can get. To support this incredibly important campaign, please visit change.org and search ‘#justiceforbear’.

The Hudgell family are incredibly strong, and the work they have done so far is nothing short of exceptional. As an MP I deal with a wide range of issues, and this is one of the saddest. I look forward to working with them to make sure that other children do not suffer in the same way that Tony did. I hope you can support our campaign. 

Georgie Welford