A press agency court reporter has spoken of her pride in working on a successful campaign to bring in tougher punishments on those convicted of child cruelty offences.
Julia Roberts, 50, pictured with Tony Hudgell, has championed the campaign since covering the original trial of seven-year-old double amputee Tony Hudgell’s biological parents at Maidstone Crown Court for the Ferrari Press Agency nearly four years ago.
And when Tony’s Law was officially backed by the Ministry of Justice on Tuesday, the experienced court reporter even got recognised in the Government department’s press release.
The change will see the maximum jail term for causing or allowing the death of a child rise from 14 years to life imprisonment.
Those convicted of causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child would face maximum sentences of 14 years behind bars, up from ten years.
Tony’s Law is named after seven-year-old double amputee Tony Hudgell, whose biological parents were each jailed for ten years in February 2018 for the horrific injuries they inflicted on him in his first few weeks of life.
Court reporter Julia, who is based at Maidstone Crown Court, covered their trial, which resulted in her subsequent involvement in the campaign for tougher penalties led by the youngster’s adoptive mum, Paula Hudgell.
Speaking after the government’s announcement that Tony’s Law would be introduced, Julia said: “It has been such an honour to work with Paula from day one in her fight to change the law.
‘This was a case that I just couldn’t leave behind’
“Court reporters are used to writing about cases, some with the most harrowing detail such as this one, and then moving on to the next trial.
“But this was a case that I just couldn’t leave behind. I’d struck up a friendship with Paula at court and from that grew my support for her campaign.
“Through Ferrari Press Agency, we’ve pushed the need for Tony’s Law as much as we could since 2018 and have always dreamt of this day but never thought it would come so soon, especially with the pandemic stalling any hope of progress through Parliament.
“Many in the legal profession also told me it would never happen, but with continuous press coverage, staggering public support, Paula’s MP Tom Tugendhat doing everything he could in the corridors of power, and most importantly Paula’s sheer determination and dedication, we’ve done it.
“I’m just so honoured that I have been trusted me to work on such an important subject and so proud of what has been achieved.”
Adam Gillham, director at Ferrari, said: “Tony is such an amazing young man and the Hudgell family are an inspiration. They have never given up on this just cause.
“And it is testament to Julia’s persistence and superb reporting of this case and the campaign that she was mentioned in the MoJ press release.
“It is not everyday reporters get official recognition they deserve in governmental press releases like this.
“Julia is a great ambassador for reporters at agencies like ours up and down the country.”
Picture: Ferrari Press Agency