Dan Wootton: For Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ legacy, never shut down schools again

These human tragedies are exacerbated by lockdowns and the closure of schools that saw civil society grind to a halt - that must never happen again.


It was one of those moments that gave me chills but made me proud to be British.

Just six minutes into the West Ham vs Chelsea humdinger on Saturday and the biggest, most impassioned applause and standing ovation of the day ripped around London Stadium.

A picture of the murdered six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes on the big screen united football fans in grief and fury.

Clubs around the country paid tribute to the young Birmingham fan, so brutally tortured and murdered by his subhuman stepmother Emma Tustin and sorry excuse for a father Thomas Hughes in a crime almost too appalling to wrap your head around.

But we must talk about what happened to little Arthur at his home in Shirley, Solihull, where he was isolated, poisoned and staved, before being beaten so badly by depraved Tustin that he was left with an unrecoverable brain injury.

His death is absolutely the fault of that evil woman and Hughes, who should rot behind bars for the rest of their sorry lives, probably being illegally tortured by fellow prisoners along the way – but it could and should have been prevented.

As I have been warning for the last 20 months, these human tragedies are exacerbated by lockdowns and the closure of schools that saw civil society grind to a halt.

That must never happen again.

How many other Arthur’s out there being abused every day as their parents hide behind a system where Covid allows them to take untold time off school?

There were at least three warnings from teachers and relatives, including his grandmother and uncle, about poor Arthur, but social workers who visited just two months before his death found “no safeguarding concerns”.

Proving the system is broken.

The Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said yesterday…

The government must pledge NEVER to shut down schools again and to ensure the pingdemic doesn’t allow parents to take their kids out of education for weeks on end with very little consequence.

As Trevor Kavanagh writes in today's Sun...

“The closure of schools at the height of the Covid panic also removed a crucial chance to spot the 130 bruises on this poor lad’s body. Certainly his absence from the classroom would have been noted. Yet with millions of children now jabbed and immune, 200,000 pupils are absent from classrooms today as militant teachers and Sage communists clamour to work from home.”

He’s right.

So too is Brendan O’Neill who wrote in a powerful column for Spiked…

“The fact that should haunt our institutions and our collective conscience, is that this catastrophe could possibly have been prevented. Representatives of the state visited Arthur during his months of torture and poisoning, but they did not recognise the great difficulty he was in.

"Worse, his extended family, the people who loved him, tried to raise the alarm, to little avail. Most disturbingly of all, they were threatened with arrest if they attempted to visit Arthur during lockdown, when household mixing was banned.”

Yes, Arthur was killed by two individuals who should never walk free again if there’s any justice in this world. Their sentences are far too lenient and must be re-examined.

But he was let down by a locked down society where the usual checks and balances that should protect vulnerable kids were thrown out the window due to a virus that barely gives most children a sniffle.

Where’s the justice in that?