One of the killers of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes has had his jail sentence increased by three years at the Court of Appeal.
The six-year-old’s stepmother, Emma Tustin, 32, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 29 years for murder, while his father, Thomas Hughes, 29, was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter in December last year.
Hughes’ jail time has been increased to 24 years after the pair both appealed against their sentences in May.
Their sentences were also challenged as being unduly lenient.
However, the judges refused to change Tustin’s sentence, finding she should not be given a whole life order and that her current sentence was not unduly lenient.
The Court of Appeal was previously told the child suffered an unsurvivable brain injury and faced “systematic brutality amounting to torture” in the lead up to his death.
Arthur, from Solihull in the West Midlands, was poisoned, starved and beaten.
On Friday, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said: “Anyone considering the detailed written materials that we have seen, and CCTV footage, would find it hard to contemplate how anyone, let alone someone with joint responsibility for his care, could have treated Arthur as Tustin did.
“The child cruelty in which she engaged was at the top end of the scale for sentencing purposes, had it been considered in isolation.”
The judge continued: “The mechanisms of assault reflected explosive violence calculated to cause maximum harm rather than any sadism in the usual sense of the word.
“It would not alone have taken this case into 30-year minimum territory.
“It was the antecedent protracted and serious cruelty which did have an element of sadism that, on the judge’s reasoning, firmly placed this case at a minimum starting point of 30 years.”
He went on: “In our view the judge was right to take a starting point of 30 years for the principal reason he gave, namely that to do so properly reflected the seriousness of the murder of Arthur and the dreadful cruelty for which Tustin was responsible that preceded it.”
Tustin only appealed against the on child cruelty offences.
Tom Little QC, representing the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), had said Tustin’s case “merited at the very least consideration of a whole-life order”.
In written submissions, Mr Little said the trial judge failed to properly consider whether Tustin’s offences were so serious they required a whole-life order.
Hughes’ sentence was found to be unduly lenient and was increased to 24 years.
Lord Burnett said in Friday’s judgement: “We consider that there is substance in the Attorney General’s argument relating to manslaughter that in encouraging Tustin to harm Arthur in the way he did there was a substantial risk that she would do something that would kill him.”
He continued: “The manslaughter bristled with aggravating features including as grave a breach of trust as can be imagined in respect of a small boy who was especially vulnerable, not least as a result of Hughes’ own conduct.
“He lied to Arthur’s school to keep him at home to protect both himself and Tustin.”
The judge added: “Without the cruelty offences the manslaughter deserved a sentence of 18 years or more.
“The judge’s view was that the offence fell just short of murder and, as we have said, the risk of death, given the preceding conduct, was real.
“In our view the appropriate sentence is one of 24 years’ imprisonment to take account of all the offending.”
Mary Prior QC, for Tustin, had argued the sentencing judge took a “fair and proper approach in this very difficult case”.
Ms Prior said the “toxicity of the relationship” between Tustin and Hughes created a scenario where they both abused Arthur.
She added:“At the very least, Thomas Hughes was encouraging Emma Tustin to be cruel, to assault and to ill-treat his son.”