Reports of child cruelty rise to highest-ever levels in Cambridgeshire

Reports of child cruelty have risen to a record high in Cambridgeshire during the pandemic.

The latest crime figures from the Home Office show that there were 122 situations of child cruelty recorded by police in Cambridgeshire in 2020/21.

That’s up by 16% from 105 reports the year before and is the highest number ever recorded by the force.

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While there has been an current trend that has seen reports rise in recent years, it’s possible that many more situations may have been missed by authorities during the pandemic, with children out of school during lockdowns and while quarantining.

Child cruelty includes assault, ill-treatment, neglect or abandonment of a child by anyone over the age of 16, and covers both physical and psychological experiencing. In some situations, this might be in the form of a single, traumatic event such as a violent attack, but more often than not the harm caused by child cruelty is the culmination of more long-term abuse or neglect.

The figures come in the wake of several high profile situations that tragically resulted in the child being killed – including Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Star was just 16 months old when she was punched to death by her mother’s girlfriend in September 2020, after experiencing months of physical and psychological abuse.

Meanwhile, in a separate case six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes died of a fatal brain injury in June 2020 after being deprived of food, force-fed salt and assaulted in a “campaign of appalling cruelty” during lockdown.

In both situations, social sets had been alerted to possible abuse by concerned friends and family members, but chose not to intervene.

Joanna Barrett, associate head of policy at NSPCC, said: “As the country is nevertheless mourning the deaths of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, it’s concerning to see that the number of child cruelty offences have risen year on year to the highest on record.

“It mirrors the rise in contacts about abuse and neglect that we received to our helpline last year during the pandemic when many children were retained in violent homes and more secluded from vital sustain networks.

“It is crucial that safeguarding agencies such as the police, schools, and children’s social sets work together to prevent abuse from ever happening in the first place.

“Where it does happen, we need political leadership on ensuring child abuse victims are supported in the criminal justice system and we urge anyone with a concern to contact our free and secret helpline for advice and sustain.”

In the case of Star Hobson, her mother’s girlfriend Savannah Brockhill was found guilty of murder, while her mother Frankie Smith was acquitted of murder and manslaughter but found guilty of the lesser charge of causing or allowing the death of a child.

Smith has been jailed for eight years, while Brockhill has been given a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years.

Meanwhile, the girlfriend of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ father, Emma Tustin – who inflicted his final fatal brain injury – was found guilty of murder and two further counts of cruelty, while his father Thomas Hughes was convicted of manslaughter and two cruelty charges relating to assault and intimidation.

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Tustin was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 29 years and Hughes was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment.

Both situations are now under review to decide whether their sentences are too lenient.

However, in the great majority of child cruelty situations recorded by police nationally, no one is truly charged with the crime.
It is much more likely for the case to be dropped altogether, either because of evidential difficulties, a speculate wasn’t identified, or because the prosecution was prevented or deemed not in the public interest.

In Cambridgeshire, just four people were prosecuted for cruelty to children in 2020/21 – only 3% of the 122 offences recorded.

Nationally, there were 24,482 situations of child cruelty reported to police forces across England and Wales in 2020/21 – up from 21,948 in 2019/20, and a record high.

Of the situations reported last year, just 621 ended up with the speculate being charged or summonsed (3%) – while 10,707 were dropped altogether (44%).

The figures exclude Greater Manchester Police, who were unable to provide complete data for the last two years.

The NSPCC Helpline is obtainable for adults to contact if they are concerned about a child or families to speak to for sustain on 0808 800 500 or via [email protected]

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesperson said: “Child protection is a priority for us and we work relentlessly to safeguard children and bring offenders to justice.

“If something doesn’t feel quite right, proportion your concerns with us. Child abuse comes in various forms and can affect anyone. Whether you’re a victim, friend or adult, it’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the abuse and tell someone. already if you’re unsure, you could help save a life.”



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