Cowardly criminals like Lucy Letby will be forced to attend their sentencing hearings, Rishi Sunak announces | The Sun

COWARDLY criminals like Lucy Letby will be forced to attend their own sentencing hearings, Rishi Sunak has announced today.

Judges will get extra powers to order them to come up from the cells – and more easily slap extra time on their prison sentences if they refuse to face their victims' families.

Guidance on when and how to use "reasonable force" will be put into law, to give officers and judges more confidence in when to use it.

Prison governors are the ones who enforce the orders – and they don't have to in all circumstances.

The new laws will apply to anyone facing a life sentence – meaning murderers and rapists.

It comes after a spate of killers sparked fury for refusing to attend their sentencing hearings, including killer nurse Lucy Letby.

The PM and Justice Secretary this morning spoke to families of victims where their killer has refused to show up for their sentencing.

He said today: “It is unacceptable that some of the country’s most horrendous criminals have refused to face their victims in court. They cannot and should not be allowed to take the coward’s way out.

“That’s why we are giving judges the power to order vile offenders to attend their sentencing hearings, with those who refuse facing being forced into the dock or spending longer behind bars.”

Rishi confirmed the move will happen when Parliament re-starts in the Autumn.

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He added: "I think critically, like many, I was appalled that people who have committed awful crimes could take the coward’s way out and not appear in court for their sentencing and to hear the impact their crimes have had on the victim’s families.

"I don’t think that’s right – there shouldn’t be an easy way out. That’s why we’re going to change the law. I think that’s the right thing to do.

"People rightly expect criminals to face up to the consequences of their actions. They shouldn’t be able to take the easy way out and I’ll change the law to ensure that’s what happens."

Top judges will be able to give them an extra two years on top of their sentence without having to charge them with contempt of court – currently a lengthy and complicated procedure which doesn't apply to sentencing hearings.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC, said: “Every time a cowardly criminal hides from justice by refusing to appear in the dock for their sentencing it is another insult to their victims and their families.

“Our reforms will give judges the power to order offenders to come to court to hear the impact of their crimes directly from victims, so that they begin their sentences with society’s condemnation ringing in their ears.”

Other convicted murderers including Thomas Cashman, the killer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, sparked fury when they failed to attend court.

The coward stayed in his cell as he was handed a minimum term of 42 years.

Olivia's mum Cheryl later spoke out against his decision, saying: "I was shocked, because I didn’t realise he had a choice.

"Angry, because he’d been there through the whole trial as myself and my family had been there for the whole trial.

"That day of sentencing was our time to voice what we’d been through. The pain we were going through, still are going through. And he never turned up. Basically, he’s a coward.

"I wanted him to hear the pain he has caused, and I wanted to see if there was any reaction from him. Any remorse. Him not turning up shows there’s no remorse."

Zara Aleena's killer Jordan McSweeney also refused to attend court he was handed a 38-year minimum term for her brutal murder.

Her aunt Farah Naz said she and Zara's gran were "denied the chance to look him in the whites of his eyes and read out victim impact statements".

Sabina Nessa's family were also denied the chance to see her killer jailed for life when Koci Selamaj refused to come to the dock.

They later branded the sex predator a "coward" as he was caged for life for her murder.

Serial killer nurse Letby was in the court building last week when she was handed a whole life tariff for her depraved killing spree.

But the shameless monster refused to face the families of her victims in what they described as a "final act of wickedness from a coward".

Letby, 33, who murdered seven babies and attempted to kill six others, was delivered a transcript of his comments and copies of the victims impact statements afterwards.

Mr Justice Goss said: “The sentencing hearing will take place whether she is present or not. The court has no power to force her to attend … therefore there is nothing I can do about it.”

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Her refusal meant she ignored the heartbreaking stories from the parents of the babies she was found guilty of murdering, or trying to harm.

The PM dubbed her "cowardly" and said he was "looking at" changing the law as soon as possible.

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