Judges will get powers to force offenders to attend sentencings

Criminals WILL be forced into court for sentencing under new powers given to judges after outrage at Lucy Letby and other killers who refused to face their victims’ families

Judges will be given the powers to order offenders to attend sentencing, under reforms in the wake of the Lucy Letby case.

The authorities will also be able to use ‘reasonable force’ to make those convicted appear in court.

The Ministry of Justice announced the change today, although the timetable for the legislation is not yet clear.

It comes after neo-natal nurse Letby refused to attend her own sentencing after being found guilty of murdering multiple babies.

Judges will be given the powers to order offender to attend sentencing, under reforms in the wake of the Lucy Letby case 

Rishi Sunak said: ‘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.’

The promised reforms will give custody officers the power to use ‘reasonable force’ to ensure those awaiting sentencing appear in the dock or via video link.

Those convicted could also face an extra two years in jail if they ignore a judge’s order and continue to refuse to attend court, with such penalties applying in cases where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said earlier this year that ministers were committed to changing the law to force criminals to be sentenced in person after the killers of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa refused to stand in the dock.

Letby, 33, did not appear in court as she was handed a whole-life order for murdering seven babies and harming six others, prompting widespread anger over how callous killers are denying victims’ families the opportunity to tell them how their crimes have affected them. 

Cheryl Korbel, 47, had her nine-year-old child taken from her forever in a horrific shooting in Liverpool by killer Thomas Cashman on August 22 last year. 

Earlier this month she described his absence from court as a ‘kick in the teeth’.

She joined the families of Elle Edwards, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa in demanding a law change to stop ‘cowardly’ offenders from ‘hiding’ when they are sentenced, as ministers have also said Letby ‘should be there’. 

The killer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel (pictured) Thomas Cashman, 34, was absent from court in April

The aunt of Zara Aleena whose killer also refused to leave his cell to attend his sentencing hearing and avoided facing his victim’s family said in February they wanted him to know he ‘completely destroyed’ them.

McSweeney was handed a life sentence and jailed for at least 38 years after admitting sexually assaulting and murdering 35-year-old law graduate Zara Aleena in Ilford, east London, in June last year.

Ms Aleena’s aunt Farah Naz said the sentencing would have been McSweeney’s opportunity to be ‘human’ and that she wanted him to hear he had ‘completely destroyed us as a family’ and it will take ‘years and years’ to accept what happened.

Ms Naz told BBC Breakfast at the time: ‘He needed to look at our faces and see how he hadn’t just killed Zara, he had killed a whole family.’

Ms Naz also told the news programme: ‘My mother and myself, Zara’s grandmother, we both made victim impact statements.

‘And we wanted him to hear that, and human to human we wanted him to know the impact that he, his actions, his atrocious, horrendous, horrific actions have left, the mark that he’s left on us, that he’s completely destroyed us as a family and we have years and years of finding a way through accepting what’s happened.

‘And we needed that. And the other side to this is that we also feel that he needed it too, as he needed to face his actions.’

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