Attorney General Suella Braverman asks Appeal Court to increase mother of Star Hobson’s eight-year jail sentence for allowing her 16-month-old daughter to be killed by her girlfriend
- Attorney General is asking Court of Appeal to increase Star’s mother’s sentence
- Suella Braverman said she considers Frankie Smith’s sentence ‘unduly lenient’
- But she said she could not recommend increase for Savannah Brockhill
- Star was murdered after suffering months of abuse in her home in Keighley
- Her mother Smith was jailed for eight years for allowing 16-month-old’s death
The Attorney General has today asked the Court of Appeal to increase Star Hobson’s mother’s ‘unduly lenient’ eight-year jail sentence.
Suella Braverman said the shocking case was ‘tragic and extremely upsetting’ and has referred it for appeal judges to reconsider the sentence given to Frankie Smith, 20.
No appeal is being made against the sentence of Smith’s girlfriend Savannah Brockhill, 28, who was sentenced to life for a minimum of 25 years after being convicted of murdering the 16-month-old toddler by jurors last month.
Smith, who was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child, will only serve two-thirds of her sentence in custody and is due to be released in just four years due to time spent on remand.
However, devastated friends and family criticised the mother’s jail term after the hearing at Bradford Crown Court in December.
Social services missed five opportunities to stop Star’s killers in the months before her death on September 22, 2020. The toddler was murdered at her home in West Yorkshire following months of abuse, the court heard.
The Attorney General has now intervened in the hope appeal judges will increase the time she will spend behind bars.
In a statement, Miss Braverman said: ‘I can only challenge a sentence if it is not just lenient but unduly so, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences reasonably available in the circumstances of the offence.
‘The threshold is a high one, and the test was not met in this case.’
Innocent Star had been tormented and abused by Smith and Brockhill during her short life
Star Hobson’s killer Savannah Brockhill (right) and her mother Frankie Smith
Police have released a harrowing picture of one of the bruises on Star’s face that sparked calls to social services from family
Attorney General Suella Braverman arrives at Downing Street on December 7, 2021
Star Hobson was only 16-months-old when she was killed at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Here are some of the key events in her short life:
May 21 – Star Hobson is born
November – Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith begin a relationship.
January 23 – Smith’s friend Holly Jones makes the first contact with social services over concerns about domestic violence and how much time she is left looking after Star. Police and social workers visit Star but no concerns are raised.
Early February – Star goes to live with her great-grandparents, David Fawcett and Anita Smith at their home in Baildon, Bradford, after Smith says she has split up with Brockhill.
April 26 – Star is removed from Anita Smith’s house by her mother and taken to live with Smith and Brockhill.
May 4 – Anita Smith contacts social services after she is told about Brockhill ‘slam-choking’ Star.
June – David Fawcett posts a picture of Star with bruises on Facebook alongside a happier shot and with the caption ‘From this to this in five weeks, what’s going on Frankie?’
June 21 – Star’s father, Jordan Hobson, contacts social services. Police take Star for a hospital examination. Smith says her daughter had hit her face on a coffee table.
June 23 – Another friend of the Smith family contacts social services with concerns.
August 14 – David Fawcett and Anita Smith see Frankie and Star for the last time.
August 28 – David Fawcett is sent a video of Star with bruises and confronts Brockhill.
September 2 – Another of Star’s great-grandfathers, Frank Smith, contacts social services after seeing video of bruises on the youngster’s face. Social workers make an unannounced visit.
September 15 – Social services closes the case after concluding the referral to be ‘malicious’.
September 22 – Star is seriously injured at the flat in Wesley Place, Keighley, and dies later in hospital.
December 14 – Following a trial at Bradford Crown Court Brockhill is convicted of Star’s murder while Smith is convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death.
Miss Braverman added: ‘This is a tragic and extremely upsetting case and my thoughts are with all those who loved Star Hobson.
‘This vulnerable and innocent child was subjected to continued physical abuse, and her mother, Frankie Smith, allowed it to happen.
‘This case will have caused upset to anyone who read about it, but my job is to decide if a sentence appears to be too low based solely on the facts of the case.
‘I have carefully considered the details of this case, and I concluded that I can refer Frankie Smith’s sentence to the Court of Appeal as I believe it is unduly lenient. However, I have concluded that I cannot refer Savannah Brockhill’s sentence.’
Last month, Star’s great-grandfather branded Brockhill ‘pure evil’ and ‘ascended from the bowels of hell.
Boris Johnson vowed to protect more children from ‘barbaric crimes’ and ‘ensure lessons are learned’, calling the case ‘shocking and heartbreaking’.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘We will never hesitate to take robust steps to prevent tragic cases like this happening’.
The verdicts fuelled mounting calls for sweeping reform, amid widespread outcry over the case of murdered six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by his cruel stepmother.
Former Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, the chairwoman of the Commission on Young Lives, warned that the Covid lockdown ‘has brought its own opportunities for those who harm, groom and abuse children’.
‘It is time we made improving children’s social care and protection as big a priority as reforming adult social care,’ she told MailOnline.
‘I hope the Government will act swiftly on the proposals that come out of the forthcoming independent review into children’s social care.
‘The horrific murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson are a stark and tragic reminder that our children’s social services system is facing a perfect storm after years of under investment and the diminishing of early intervention and family support.’
The current Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, added: ‘It is clear that there are serious lessons that need to be learnt. Applying these lessons across the country is the biggest challenge facing us. It is incumbent on all of us working with children to step up to that challenge.
‘The beautiful, smiling picture of Star Hobson reminds us how precious the life of each child is. What she endured is unspeakable but it must not be unthinkable.
‘We need to ask the hard questions about how this happened, and the even harder questions about how this is the second case in recent weeks.’
The NSPCC said ‘we must do all we can to prevent cruelty and abuse to children’.
Leader of Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe said a review was under way into agencies’s contact with the family.
She added: ‘Star was let down and we all want to know if anything could have been done differently.’
Tory MP Robbie Moore called on Miss Hinchliffe and the council’s chief executive Kersten England to resign.
The Department for Education called Star’s death ‘deeply disturbing’ and said it would ‘not hesitate’ to remove children’s services control from Bradford Council ‘if necessary’.
A spokesman said the review into Star’s death will feed into the national review of Arthur’s death commissioned by the Education Secretary.
Star’s mother Frankie Smith, 20 (L), was cleared of murder, but found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child at Bradford Crown Court after three days of deliberation. Savannah Brockhill, 28 (R), was convicted by a jury unanimously of the murder of Star Hobson
Star Hobson (pictured with Brockhill) suffered a cardiac arrest and died in hospital from appalling injuries inflicted on her
Frankie Smith, 20, phoned her grandfather David Fawcett, 61, (pictured) – who is one of the two relatives who speaks to her – to moan about her jail term after the Attorney General urged a review into the ‘lenient’ sentence
Star Hobson’s mother ‘upset’ at threat of more jail time: Parent, 20, ‘called her grandfather from prison to moan’ after learning eight-year term for allowing lover to murder toddler could increase
The mother of Star Hobson who allowed her toddler daughter to be murdered by her lover is ‘upset’ by calls for her eight-year sentence to be reviewed.
Frankie Smith, 20, phoned her grandfather David Fawcett – who is one of the two relatives who speaks to her – earlier this week to moan about her jail term after the Attorney General urged a review into the ‘lenient’ sentence.
She was given just eight years in prison – meaning she could be out in four – after a judge reduced her sentence to account for the ‘burden’ of knowing she played a significant role in the death of her 16-month-old daughter.
Smith’s partner Savannah Brockhill, 28, was jailed for a minimum of 25 years and given a mandatory life sentence for murdering the child, who bled to death after being attacked at home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in September last year.
David, 61, told the Sunday People: ‘She phoned me on Thursday and she’s a little upset because they’re reviewing the sentence. People don’t think eight years is long enough.
‘She’s upset about it, to be honest. She’s lost a daughter and has to live with that for the rest of her life, that’s all she talks about.’
Asked about the response of social services outside court last month, Star’s great-grandfather David Fawcett said: ‘It’s disgusting because there were five referrals. Not one of them did anything. It’s just beyond belief, really.’
Asked whether social services had missed the ‘blindingly obvious’, Mr Fawcett said: ‘Yes.’
He added: ‘I’m just pleased we got a murder conviction for Savannah Brockhill. To me she was just pure evil. I just can’t believe she could do something like that to a baby girl.
‘We were just a quiet, lovely family and she ascended from the bowels of hell and just completely devastated and wrecked our family.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Swift, of West Yorkshire Police, was asked outside Bradford Crown Court whether enough was done to protect Star.
He said: ‘There is a review that’s ongoing, a local children’s safeguarding practice review.
‘At the early stage of our investigation I linked in with the chair of that review, Mr Mellor, to ensure that review could be undertaken in a timely manner and to make sure that information could be shared, lessons learned and, more importantly, the lessons implemented.’
Mr Swift said he could not comment further on the review, which is a ‘work in progress’.
Smith cried uncontrollably as the verdicts were delivered as the pair stood in the glass-fronted dock.
Star was taken to hospital from the flat where she lived with Smith in Wesley Place, Keighley, but her injuries were ‘utterly catastrophic’ and ‘unsurvivable’, prosecutors told the two-month trial.
Jurors heard that Smith’s family and friends had growing fears about bruising they saw on the little girl in the months before she died and made a series of complaints to social services.
In each case, Brockhill and Smith managed to convince social workers that marks on Star were accidental or that the complaints were made maliciously by people who did not like their relationship.
Prosecutors described how the injuries that caused Star’s death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity ‘caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen’.
Jurors also heard there were other injuries on her body which meant that ‘in the course of her short life, Star had suffered a number of significant injuries at different times’.
Prosecutor Alistair MacDonald QC said there had been two fractures to Star’s right leg ‘caused by forceful twisting’.
He also described a fracture to the back of the skull and bruising to Star, ‘much of which is considered to be non-accidental in origin’.
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