Tony Hudgell lost both his legs following abuse from his mum Jody Simpson and her partner Anthony Smith (Picture: Kent Police/PA)
Ministers have launched a last-ditch bid to stop the early release from prison of a mum whose eight-year-old son lost both legs after being abused.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab is going to London’s Court of Appeal to try to keep Jody Simpson behind bars after she was granted parole just four years into a 10-year sentence.
She and partner Anthony Smith were jailed in 2018 after a court heard harrowing details about their abuse of young Tony Hudgell.
News that the 24-year-old was cleared for release later this week has been condemned by Tony’s adoptive mum Paula Hudgell, who was last week included in the King’s first New Year Honours list for her campaigning efforts on the boy’s behalf.
And Mr Raab revealed he would be challenging Simpson’s freedom bid.
She and Smith, 47, abused Tony so severely as a baby that he needed 23 operations and eight blood transfusions before doctors later had to amputate his legs.
Smith and Simpson were both given 10-year jail terms for child cruelty (Picture: Kent Police)
Tony Hudgell, who uses prosthetic legs, takes the final steps in a fundraising walk in West Malling in Kent (Picture: PA)
They were found guilty of child cruelty in 2018 and each given 10-year prison terms.
But Simpson was in line to be freed this week and won a High Court ruling against Mr Raab’s initial attempt to block her release.
Ministry of Justice officials have now applied to the Court of Appeal to overrule that decision and she must remain locked up until a finding on whether to hold a new hearing.
Mr Raab, who is also deputy prime minister, said: ‘Tony Hudgell was mercilessly tortured by his birth parents, the very people who should have loved and cared for him.
‘It’s my duty to protect other children from that awful experience which is why we will be challenging this ruling and Jody Simpson will remain behind bars while the courts consider our appeal.’
Justice secretary and deputy prime minister Dominic Raab (Picture: Reuters)
Meanwhile, Paula told the Sun newspaper: ‘Any extra time Simpson spends behind bars is justice for Tony. She and Smith are monsters.’
She has pushed for so-called Tony’s Law, which means the maximum penalty for causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child has gone up from 10 to 14 years – while causing a child’s death has risen from 14 years to life.
She and her husband Mark, from Kent, have also set up the Tony Hudgell Foundation – aimed at enhancing the lives of children affected by physical, emotional or psychological abuse.
Paula, from Kings Hill in Kent, was awarded an OBE in last week’s honours list for her campaigning efforts, which she described as ‘really humbling’ and ‘an incredible end to 2022’.
Tony on a trip to Lapland with adoptive family, mum Paula, 55, dad Mark, 58, and sister Lacey, 10
Tony was admitted to hospital as a baby after sustained levels of abuse (Picture: Paula Hudgell)
The then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge talk to Tony and Paula at the Together At Christmas community carol service at Westminster Abbey in 2021 (Picture: Heathcliff O’Malley/PA)
Tony had been rushed to hospital with life-changing injuries in 2014 when he was just 41 days old and three years later needed both legs amputated.
He is still learning to walk on prosthetic legs without crutches but had his life saved by specialists at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, whose patrons include the Princess of Wales. She has hailed his recovery as has Prince William.
Tony set out to raise £500 for the hospital that saved his life by walking 10km in 30 days in 2020 after being inspired by Sir Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than £33million walking in his backyard during the initial Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
The youngster went on to generate more than £1.8million in donations.