Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has exercised new powers in order to block the release of a dangerous offender who was imprisoned for torturing a baby.
Anthony Smith was handed a 10-year prison sentence in 2018 for torturing his infant son, now known as Tony Hudgell. But his automatic release in early September will be halted after the deputy prime minister put into action new powers designed to protect the public from dangerous offenders.
Tony, now seven, suffered severe injuries, including a hip dislocation and head trauma, which forced surgeons to have to amputate both legs at the knee.
Now seven, he has since learnt to walk on prosthetic legs and during the coronavirus lockdown, raised more than £1.5m for the NHS and the hospital that saved his life.
Smith has been told that Mr Raab is referring his case to the Parole Board for a decision, following changes introduced through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022.
A decision on whether to release Smith will be made by the Parole Board in due course.
Such a referral can allow for the automatic conditional release of a prisoner to be overridden, in specific circumstances where public safety is thought to be at risk.
It follows a decision by the deputy prime minister to use the same powers on 11 August to block the automatic release of Mr Hudgell’s birth mother, Jody Simpson, who is also serving a 10-year sentence for child cruelty.
Mr Raab, the secretary of state for justice, said: “The first duty of government is to protect the most vulnerable – and no one is more vulnerable than a child. I will do everything in my power to prevent another child enduring the abuse inflicted on Tony Hudgell.
“That’s why I’ve put Anthony Smith’s release on hold and will be referring his case to the Parole Board so that any risk he might pose is thoroughly checked.”
Tony’s adoptive mother, Paula Hudgell, told the PA news agency she was “extremely grateful” Mr Raab has stepped in.
“It shows the importance of why Tony’s Law needed to come into force as sentences absolutely were too lenient.
“It also still highlights the absolute need for a child cruelty register.”
A referral can be made by the secretary of state under “power to detain” provisions if an offender presents a significant risk of causing serious harm and that risk cannot be safely managed through the usual licence conditions.
Tougher sentencing for child abusers came into force in June, meaning that anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their household can now be given a sentence of up to life in prison – an increase on the previous 14-year maximum.
The sentencing changes, also introduced under the PCSC Act, are known as Tony’s Law, following tireless campaigning by Mr Hudgell and his adoptive family.