Tony Hudgell is the incredible little boy who showed me the best spirit of Britain – and his depraved parents who show the very worst, writes BORIS JOHNSON
In my three-and-a-bit years as Prime Minister I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the incredible people who change the lives of others for the better. The vaccine experts who helped us beat Covid. The British troops training Ukrainians. Doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police officers – you name it. All of them driven by the same sense of service. It has been one of the great privileges of the job.
But this week I spent some time with a seven-year-old boy who, for sheer determination, is something else entirely.
Tony Hudgell was a defenceless newborn baby when his parents first assaulted him with a brutality it is impossible for most of us to imagine. His tiny limbs were shattered. His face was beaten black and blue. Sepsis set in and his organs started to fail – and yet for ten agonising days they did not even take him to hospital.
It took 23 operations, eight blood transfusions and the dedicated care of dozens and dozens of NHS staff to save his life. For all their skill and compassion they couldn’t save his legs, which were so badly damaged they had to be amputated.
After such a horrific start in life, many people would simply give up, give in and reconcile themselves to being one of life’s victims. But Tony really isn’t like most people. By the age of five he’d not only learned to walk on his prosthetic legs, but used them to march an astonishing 10km, and raised an even more astonishing £1.7million for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital that took care of him.
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to campaigner Tony Hudgell, 7, during a Points of Light reception at Downing Street on Tuesday
Tony really isn’t like most people. By the age of five he’d not only learned to walk on his prosthetic legs, but used them to march an astonishing 10km
He raised an even more astonishing £1.7million for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital that took care of him
He even found time to campaign for a change in sentencing rules – Tony’s Law – so that people who cause or allow the death of a child in their care can be handed the life sentence they deserve.
Two years ago I first recognised his incredible efforts, and presented him with the Prime Minister’s Point of Light award. This week he dropped by the No 10 garden to celebrate his achievements, meet some other Points of Light, and later busted some moves with the police officers in Downing Street.
Tony has shown the very best of the spirit of this country. To see the worst of our fellow Britons today, you only have to think of the sick mentality of the couple who neglected, tortured and very nearly killed him. It’s hard to write about the actions of Jody Simpson and Tony Smith, and hard for any normal person to imagine the depths of depravity to which someone has to descend before they can deliberately inflict such suffering on their own infant and defenceless child.
When they were finally sentenced to ten years in prison, many people will have thought that punishment was barely adequate.
Tony’s birth parents Jody Simpson, 24, and his birth father Anthony Smith, 47, were both given ten-year prison sentences for abusing their son
So many will now find it incredible that Simpson – the mother – is now to be automatically released from prison this summer after spending just five years behind bars.
Or at least that’s what would have automatically happened if the Government had not acted to change the rules. The same rules – introduced by Labour – that have seen countless violent criminals allowed back out on to the streets after serving just half their sentences would have seen her walk free regardless of whether she remained a risk to children like Tony.
It’s the kind of justice by algorithm that defies common sense, insults victims of crime, and has baffled Mail readers for far too long. And when I became Prime Minister I was determined to do something about it.
That’s why we have responded to Tony’s campaign by increasing maximum jail terms for child abusers, and this year’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act goes further. The Act makes it easier to block the automatic early release of criminals who may still pose a serious threat to the public.
Tony’s adoptive family campaigned with him to get tougher sentences for child abusers, with Tony’s Law now implemented
Using new powers created by the Act, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has stepped in and referred Simpson’s case to the Parole Board.
So instead of simply being freed because a computer says so, Simpson will be properly assessed by an independent panel tasked with deciding what danger she represents to society, and how best to manage that risk.
It’s just one of several changes we’ve made to the justice system, making our streets safer by tipping the balance away from criminals and in favour of victims.
Parole hearings can now be held in public, making them more transparent and accountable and allowing people to see for themselves exactly what is being done in their name.
We’ve raised the bar that dangerous offenders have to clear before they’re moved to open prisons, and given the Justice Secretary more powers to challenge decisions made by parole boards. And we’re changing the law so that victims’ voices are heard in parole hearings, not just those of criminals and their lawyers.
‘He has touched everyone’s hearts’: Tony posing with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby
Meeting his hero: Tony with Chelsea football player Mason Mount last year which Tony called ‘a dream come true’
Over the past three years we’ve done more than any recent government to put victims right at the heart of the system and help more people get the justice they deserve.
There’s always more to do, of course. But with tougher sentences for the worst offenders, new limits on early release, far greater transparency in the parole system, thousands of extra police officers recruited and trained (yes, we are on track to reach the 20,000), and neighbourhood crime now falling steeply, I’m proud of everything we have achieved.
Sadly, the nature of humanity is such that we will always have to deal with people like Simpson and Smith.
But as long as we are blessed by individuals like little Tony Hudgell – people who refuse to be beaten, who won’t take no for an answer, who overcome unimaginable obstacles to do what’s right – millions of us will be inspired to do what we can to make this a better, safer world for us all.
Victory for victims: Boris Johnson hails powers keeping abusive mother of Tony Hudgell behind bars after brave youngster was tortured so badly he lost both legs
By John Stevens, Deputy Political Editor
Boris Johnson has hailed new powers that mean a mother who tortured her baby so severely he lost both legs will be kept in jail.
Jody Simpson and Anthony Smith were both handed ten-year sentences in 2018 for torturing their son, Tony Hudgell.
The boy, who is now seven, was just 41 days old when he was assaulted – causing multiple fractures, dislocations and blunt trauma to the face. The horrific injuries led to organ failure, toxic shock and sepsis.
He was left untreated and in agony for ten days and the terrible damage meant both his legs had to be amputated. Simpson was due for automatic release yesterday – the half-way point of her sentence – but Justice Secretary Dominic Raab launched a last-minute bid to extend her time behind bars, using powers introduced earlier this year.
Tony, pictured as a baby at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, was violently abused by his birth mother, Jody Simpson, and had to have his legs amputated
It means the Parole Board will now have to scrutinise Simpson’s case before deciding if she is safe to release.
Tony has raised more than £1.7million for the Evelina London Children’s Hospital where he was treated and his adoptive parents have campaigned for tougher sentencing for child abusers.
After welcoming the family to Downing Street for a reception this week, the Prime Minister praised the little boy for his ‘sheer determination’, which he said had ‘shown the very best of the spirit of this country’.
Writing in the Daily Mail today, Mr Johnson says: ‘As long as we are blessed by individuals like little Tony Hudgell – people who refuse to be beaten, who won’t take no for an answer, who overcome unimaginable obstacles to do what’s right – millions of us will be inspired to do what we can to make this a better, safer world for us all.’ Tougher sentences for child abusers came into force this year under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.
Anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their household can now be given up to life in prison – up from the previous 14-year maximum.
The Act also gave the Justice Secretary the ability to refer cases to the Parole Board if there are fears an offender may still pose a risk to the public.
The sentencing changes are known as ‘Tony’s Law’ following a campaign by the boy and his adoptive parents Paula and Mark.
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