Star Hobson death: why has mother Frankie Smith had prison sentence increased to 12 years - what’s been said

Frankie Smith had been locked up for 8 years over the death of her daughter Star Hobson, who was murdered by Savannah Brockhill

The mother of murdered toddler Star Hobson, has had her eight-year prison sentence for causing or allowing her daughter’s death increased to 12 years.

Frankie Smith, 20, was locked up at Bradford Crown Court in December last year for her role in the death of her 16-month-old daughter, who was killed by Smith’s former partner Savannah Brockhill.

Star died after she was taken to hospital in September 2020, having suffered “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable” injuries at Brockhill’s hands.

Brockhill, 28, a bouncer and security guard, was found guilty of Star’s murder and jailed for at least 25 years, while Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing her death following a trial at Bradford Crown Court.

Frankie Smith had her sentence for allowing her daughter Star Hobson’s death increased to 12 years.

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What happened to Star Hobson?

During the trial, jurors heard 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, of Hawthorn Close, Keighley, and Smith, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, 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”.

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Why was Smith’s sentence increased?

Smith’s sentence had been referred to the court by the Attorney General’s Office under the unduly lenient sentencing scheme, and senior judges increased it at a hearing on Tuesday.

Three senior judges increased Smith’s sentence to 12 years’ detention.

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 lowered 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.”

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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.

Star Hobson died from "utterly catastrophic" injuries at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire in September 2020.

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.”

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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 that Star was “particularly vulnerable due to her very young age”, and that “self-evidently, Miss Smith was in a position of trust”.

Savannah Brockhill, 28, was found guilty yesterday of the murder of Star Hobson

What did Smith’s defence say?

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.

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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.”

In written arguments, the barrister said that Smith was unaware of the extent of the injuries Brockhill had inflicted on the toddler before her murder, adding that she was a victim of domestic violence, immature and of low intelligence.

What has the Attorney General said?

Speaking after the judgment, the Attorney General, Suella Braverman QC MP, said: “This is a tragic and extremely upsetting case and my thoughts are with all those who loved Star Hobson. This case involved prolonged cruelty and neglect, deliberate disregard, and a failure to take any steps to protect or seek assistance for her before and after her murder.

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“No sentence can reverse this tragedy, but I welcome the decision to reflect the gravity of this offending by increasing the sentence today.”

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