The law compelling the murderers to attend trial will be in the King’s Speech


A law to force offenders to attend judgments is due to be included in the King’s Speech and presented to Parliament by the end of this year, amid outrage over Lucy Letby’s refusal to return to court on Monday.

Alex Chalke, the justice minister, said he was “committed” to introducing legislation aimed at preventing convicted criminals from refusing to appear in court when details of their sentence are made public.

The Telegraph understands that Rishi Sunak plans to include the measure in the King’s speech on November 7 and have it in Parliament by Christmas. And the deputies expressed their anger after this appeared Litby refused to return to her seat In the dock for the remainder of the proceedings, which will conclude Monday with her sentencing.

Mr Sunak has defended proposals to force offenders to attend their sentencing, having vowed during his leadership campaign last year that he would “do everything he can to make sure victims have a chance to look the offender in the eye and testify for justice”.

The Prime Minister has indicated that refusing to appear in court is tantamount to “a coward’s way out”.

Mr Sunak’s plan, initially worked on by Mr Chalke’s predecessor Dominic Raab, was to have his refusal to attend court for sentencing become an aggravating factor, meaning such a move could provide judges a legal basis to increase the sentence for a criminal.

Another option is being considered to change the law To create a legal obligation on the defendant to appear before the judgment issued against him.

A new legal duty will give court and prison officials the legal protection they need if they are forced to use force to bring a convicted criminal to justice in the dock.

Use reasonable force

Currently, judges can order criminals to appear and prison officers are able to use reasonable force to take them to court. But a legal source said prison governors and guards are often “reluctant” to use force because of the risk of legal action if they are found to have gone beyond what is “reasonable”, when the defendant simply insists on staying put rather than being violent. .

Part of the ministers’ reasoning behind bringing a new measure into law is that it will give additional legal protections to prison officers.

The trial judge, Mr Joss K. C, told the court last week that he had no authority to compel Litby to appear. He said: The judgment pronouncement session will take place whether she is present or not. The court has no power to compel her to appear…so I can’t do anything about it.”

Courts across the country have reported that increasing numbers of offenders are refusing to attend sentencing hearings, with a number of high-profile cases sparking outrage among victims of their crimes.

Earlier this year, Thomas Cashman, Olivia Pratt Corbell’s murderer, Contempt for the judge and his victim’s family to remain in his cell after being found guilty of killing the nine-year-old in Liverpool.

refused to appear

Another recent case of convicted murderers who refused to appear in the dock is Kosi Silamaj, who killed schoolteacher Sabina Nissa in September 2021.

Her sister, Jabina Islam, called him a “coward”.

Jordan McSweeney also refused to appear in court for his verdict to kill ambitious lawyer Zara Alina.

In June, Mr Chalke said: “I am pleased to say we are committed to introducing legislation to enable offenders to attend sentencing.

“Offenders who steal innocence, betray lives, and break families must be demanded to face the consequences of their actions and to hear the condemnation of society expressed through the judge’s remarks on sentencing.”

Mr Chalke, who was a public prosecutor before becoming an MP and imprisoning rapists, extremists and con artists, said he was concerned that an accused who refuses to appear might be copied by others, “who see this in some way as a means of escaping the consequences of their actions”.

“We have seen the suffering caused by these acts, so let me make the point I want to know that when an offender sits in a cell, trying to sleep When the rest of the world sleeps, the words of condemnation from the judge ring in their ears.

“There are victims who find it difficult to recover, so why should this accused sleep peacefully in his bed?”

New CPS Guidelines

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) issued new guidance in September last year on how courts should deal with uncooperative defendants after judges stated they did not have sufficient powers to deal with offenders who refuse to attend court hearings.

The guidelines outline “options available to help the court ensure attendance or proceed with hearings without it [defendants]. This includes the option of having the defendant appear in court handcuffed.”

If the defendant refuses to leave prison to attend court, the court must decide whether there are reasonable grounds for his refusal. For example, the defendant could be sick. If this is the case, the court may order the continuation of the hearing in the absence of the accused or the adjournment of the hearing to a later time.

If there are no reasonable grounds, the prosecution may try to convince the judge to compel the prisoner to appear in court. If the judge agrees that the defendant must appear, the matter is referred to the prison director. The prison director must then decide what reasonable steps should be taken to secure attendance.

Jonathan Store, Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor with CPSHe said it is important for victims of crimes that defendants come to court.

For many victims, reading their statement of impact in court to the defendant is a matter of great importance. Being denied this opportunity can be very upsetting. The failure of the defendants to appear also means that cases are postponed, trials are disrupted, and justice is frustrated.

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