Star Hobson’s mother faces four more years behind bars: Murdered 16-month-old’s parent has her ‘unduly lenient’ sentence increased from eight years to 12 after allowing toddler to die at hands of bouncer girlfriend
The mother of murdered toddler Star Hobson today had her ‘unduly lenient’ eight-year prison sentence for allowing her daughter to be murdered by her violent bouncer girlfriend increased by four years at the Court of Appeal.
Frankie Smith, 20, was cleared of murder but handed an eight-year jail term after being convicted of causing or allowing the death of her 16-month-old daughter Star at her flat in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Smith’s then-girlfriend, Savannah Brockhill, 28, was jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering Star, and must serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars. No appeal was made against her sentence.
However, Smith’s sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General Suella Braverman under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme, and today three senior judges increased it to 12 years’ detention.
Smith will have to serve just two-thirds of her sentence before being considered for release, but her 443 days on remand means she could be out in under seven years.
The Attorney General asked the Court of Appeal to increase Star Hobson’s mother’s ‘unduly lenient’ eight-year jail sentence
No appeal is being made against the sentence of Frankie Smith’s girlfriend Savannah Brockhill, who will spend at least 25 years behind bars for murder. But Smith, who was jailed for eight years, will now spend an extra four years in jail
Smith appeared at the Court of Appeal in London today via video-link from HMP New Hall, wearing a grey top.
Tom Little QC, for the Attorney General’s Office, said the original judge had found Smith to be a ‘neglectful and cruel parent who thought only of her own interests’.
He argued that there were aggravating parts of Smith’s crime which were not taken into account and that the sentencing judge, Mrs Justice Lambert, had wrongly decreased the number of years she should serve.
Mr Little said: ‘The judge placed the most weight on the loss of Star as a part of mitigation… there can be no doubt about that.’
He added: ‘This was not a case where the offender was so racked with guilt and pleaded guilty at the very first opportunity, remorseful from the outset about the loss, to be a significant point in the offender’s favour.’
The barrister said the sentencing judge also did not refer to Star’s vulnerability or to the at least 11-minute delay in calling 999 after she suffered the fatal injuries.
At the trial, prosecutors said 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’.
Zafar Ali QC, for Smith, said it was ‘simply incorrect’ to say his client had not been remorseful, saying she had been ‘extremely remorseful’ during the trial.
Mr Ali said: ‘She expressly said how sorry she was for her cruelty and neglect.’
He added: ‘This case was permeated by domestic violence – she was physically abused by Brockwell on several occasions.’
Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, found that the sentencing judge was wrong to reduce Smith’s sentence from the starting point based on mitigation, including of her losing her daughter.
‘On the facts of this case, where Miss Smith had treated Star with such cruelty… the judge was wrong to identify this as a mitigating feature and then give it the weight she did.’
Dame Victoria continued: ‘There was little, if any, to be said in mitigation.
‘In our judgment no less a sentence than 12 years would meet the justice of this case.’
The judge said Star was ‘particularly vulnerable due to her very young age’, and that ‘self-evidently, Miss Smith was in a position of trust’.
Social services missed five opportunities to stop Star’s killers in the months before her death on September 22, 2020, a court heard
The maximum sentence for Smith’s offence, allowing the death of a child, was 14 years imprisonment.
During Smith and Brockhill’s seven-week trial, the jury heard Star endured months of assaults and psychological harm before suffering ‘utterly catastrophic’ injuries in her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire.
Justice Lambert QC, said Star had become a victim of the couple’s ‘petty squabbles and jealous fights’.
She said Star’s life was marked by ‘neglect, cruelty and injury’ before she was murdered by Savannah Brockhill on September 22, 2020.
Justice Lambert QC said: ‘Star was caught up in the cross-fire of your relationship.
‘The detail of that relationship is graphically illustrated in the many hundreds of social media messages that you sent to each other.
‘Those messages concern petty squabbles and jealous fights.
‘Often fuelled by alcohol, those fights quickly escalated into an exchange of violent threats and ultimatums, which were obviously meaningless to you both.’
Star’s mother Smith (left) was cleared of murder, but found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child. Brockhill (right) was convicted by a jury unanimously of murder
However, Justice Lambert had conceded that Smith’s ‘low IQ’ and obsession with Brockhill offered some mitigation to the length of her overall sentence.
She told her: ‘You were a neglectful parent, even before you began your relationship with Savannah Brockhill.
‘[But] I accept that when you met Savannah Brockill, she proved to be an even greater distraction and that you as a rather immature and impressionable girl became obsessed by her.’
Both women had denied murder and also causing or allowing Star’s death before a jury found Brockhill guilty of murder and Smith guilty of causing or allowing the toddler’s death after three days of deliberations.
Devastated friends and family criticised the mother’s jail term after the hearing at Bradford Crown Court.
Social services missed five opportunities to stop Star’s killers in the months before her death on September 22, 2020, the court heard.
In a statement announcing she was referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal, 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.’
TIMELINE OF STAR HOBSON’S SHORT LIFE
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.