by Amy Jones
Monday, 6
December 2021
Reaction
15:00

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ death shows the dark side of lockdowns

Domestic abuse skyrocketed when restrictions were in place
by Amy Jones
Arthur Labinjo-Hughes

The harrowing tale of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes should act as a cautionary tale for many reasons. The six-year-old was subjected to a campaign of abuse and cruelty by his father, Thomas Hughes, and stepmother, Emma Tustin, in the midst of lockdown last year. A campaign involving beating, abuse and poisoning which culminated in his death. Tustin and Hughes were both jailed last week for murder and manslaughter respectively.

Of course, the perpetrators are fully responsible for their behaviour and Arthur’s death. But it is hard not to consider the effect lockdown had on Arthur, and on many vulnerable children like him. It’s reported that Arthur’s abuse worsened when Hughes moved in with Tustin at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. The absence of school meant the usual checks and safety nets which might have saved Arthur were lost. Even when school recommenced for children in June, his father reported him as continuing to be absent.

Arthur wasn’t the only one. Following lockdown and school closures, it is estimated that 100,000 children have disappeared from the UK schooling system. They left as a result of school closures and never fully returned. While adults were being prioritised in the Covid response, these vulnerable children lost their safety net in the school and slipped through the cracks. In April 2020, months before Arthur was murdered, a Home Affairs Committee even remarked:

The social distancing guidelines have had a profound impact on families in need, as the closure of schools and children’s services has meant that “a lot of children who would be picked up and noticed [ … ] when things are going wrong become invisible.
- Home Affairs Committee

It’s also reported that Arthur’s uncle Daniel Hughes raised his concerns about Arthur to the police. But he was warned that he would be arrested for breaching lockdown rules if he attempted to return to Arthur’s house. It seems that while the state protected Arthur from Covid, it did little to protect him from the danger in his own home.

It should come as no surprise that lockdowns have been horrific for victims of abuse and domestic violence. There is a growing body of evidence showing the effect lockdowns have had on the vulnerable: the NSPCC reported calls to their helpline increased by 32% during lockdown; there was a 65% increase in calls to a helpline for male victims of abuse; visits to refuge websites trebled; and in the EU, there was a 60% increase in emergency calls by women being subjected to domestic violence during lockdown. In a survey for the BBC’s Panorama, two thirds of domestic abuse victims reported being subjected to more violence from their partners during lockdown, and harrowingly, three-quarters said lockdown made it harder to escape their abusers.

Amid happy tales of baking banana bread, watching Netflix and enjoying Zoom quizzes, it is easy to overlook the risk lockdowns pose to the vulnerable. As the panic over the omicron variant rumbles on with increasingly shrill calls for lockdown, it is important to remember that for many of the most vulnerable, lockdowns do not save them, but condemn them to months of abuse and suffering with no escape.

Amy Jones is an anonymous medical doctor with a background in philosophy and bioethics. You can find her on Twitter at @skepticalzebra.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
20 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
William Murphy
William Murphy
9 months ago

So, to offset the lives allegedly “saved” by lockdown, we have:

1) Children and partners without support and protection

2) Business owners driven bankrupt and employees who have lost jobs, all resulting in huge nervous strain, poverty, misery, and, probably, increased suicide.

3) Loss of tax revenue for future services in the NHS, etc.

C Spencer
C Spencer
9 months ago
Reply to  William Murphy

You should add to this:
4) Numerous undetected cancer and heart disease cases, which according to Karl Sikora might dwarf the numbers who died from Covid.
5) A year of lost education for children with all that entails.
6) A huge mental health crisis amongst children and teenagers exarcebated by the fact they were driven to communicating purely on-line with their friends for months at a time.
It is truly despicable. I hope to see people like Susan Michie in court one day.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  C Spencer

But on the plus side it did significantly reduce my commuting time

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
9 months ago
Reply to  C Spencer

plus the people ending up in hospital as a consequence of covid vaccination (estimated 2 million (10 000 times more reports that for any other vaccines) reported side effects in the EU)

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago

Preaching to the choir here…. Most of the commentators here have been against lockdown since almost the beginning. And have had their morality questioned for their stance!

Carol Forshaw
Carol Forshaw
9 months ago

Both retired I live with my husband in a large house with a garden. We have no money worries. Living in an ideal situation, I found lockdown dreadful as all my activities were removed from me. The problem with lockdown was that those inflicting upon others did not experience it. They continued working, mixing with others and having their opinions listened to and reveared. They have no insight to the experience they imposed and therefore could not see its effects upon those living in less than ideal circumstances. God forbid they try to inflict it upon us again.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago

Are you kidding me? Lockdown saves lives, didn’t you know?

andrew harman
andrew harman
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I think the downvoters missed the fact you were being ironic / sarcastic…

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I believed that Tom Dreiberg suggested a new typeface be introduced called “ironics” to make clear the nature of such writing to those who were inclined to take things too literally.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It would be like talking to a lockdown enthusiast. No “specialist” font would make a difference.

Andrea X
Andrea X
9 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I missed them 😀

andrew harman
andrew harman
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I suspect they are feeling a little foolish now…

George Glashan
George Glashan
9 months ago

this is at a tangent to the point of the above article.

Thomas Hughes, and Emma Tustin should face the death penalty for this crime. the sustained torture of a child until he died, I’m lost for words on this one. there is plenty of blame to be levelled at the social workers afterwards, and their usual handwaving we will learn lessons response, but those 2 directly responsible should first die for this crime.

Edward H
Edward H
9 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

I changed my mind when I read that Ms Tustin’s fellow inmates are making her life a living hell.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

I suppose that the police and social services personnel who investigated reports of abuse had been well drilled in the mantra of “believe the woman”.
Unfortunately, even if the unfortunate child had been spoken to in private he might well have been too terrified of retribution if he spoke out so that he might not have said anything. I suspect social workers risk errors in both overreacting and failing to act.
Lockdown probably exacerbated the problem but would the outcome have been different even in more normal times?

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Your misogyny is getting in the way of the reality. They didn’t believe either of his grandmothers. If they had, things might have been different.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

Less misogyny than a dislike of simplistic mantras. But you are quite right a more vigorous response to the grandmother’s and indeed uncle’s concerns could have led to a different outcome. That said I also agree with Ethniciodo’s comments below.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I have precisely no time for 95% of public sector workers, but social worker do a hugely demanding job in very difficult and often distressing circumstances.
Th surprising thing is not that they get it wrong but that the don’t get it wrong more often.
I suspect that many of the people now demanding that heads should role would similarly be demanding an enquiry if that allegation was that social workers had been too quick to take a child in to care.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago

How depressing on many levels, but especially that modern day Plod, always preferring the easy life, decides it would be easier to prosecute someone for lockdown infringements than to investigate and protect a vulnerable child.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
9 months ago

This crisis is still happening. The enormous amount of work created for anyone working with children and families means that much of the damage will go unreported and unaddressed. We live in a childist society that simultaneously gives children everything they want while also failing to give them what they need.