UK Justice Secretary announces plans to compel offenders to attend sentencing hearings News
UK Justice Secretary announces plans to compel offenders to attend sentencing hearings

The UK Government plans to give judges new powers to compel convicted criminals to attend their sentencing hearings, according to a post from Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk. This comes after the sentencing of serial killer Lucy Letby, who refused to attend her sentencing, with remarks by Justice James Goss instead being projected into Letby’s cell via video link. Letby received a sentence of life imprisonment with a whole life order for the killing of seven infants as a neonatal nurse.

JURIST News spoke with former Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Sir Robert Buckland KC MP who told JURIST that the Letby case has led to fresh calls that criminals should be forced to attend their sentencing. Buckland said this “adds insult to serious injury,” telling JURIST:

I share the Justice Secretary’s view that perpetrators cannot be allowed to added insult to the already heinous injury and loss they have caused their victims by refusing to attend their sentencing and welcome the urgency with which he is seeking to address this problem.

Playing the Judge’s verdict to defendants should be deployed in the most serious cases to deny them the opportunity to control proceedings and give them nowhere to hide.

A Ministry of Justice source said on Friday in response to a petition:

The Government is carefully considering changing the law so that offenders are required to face up to their actions and victims can see justice being served.

The Government fully appreciates that an offender’s refusal to attend their sentencing hearing can cause enormous upset and anger for victims and their families. That is why, during his leadership bid, the Prime Minister committed to making offenders spend longer in prison for non-attendance, and the Lord Chancellor confirmed in April that the Government will bring forward legislation to deliver this change as soon as parliamentary time allows.

UK Legislation on the non-attendance of sentencing hearings will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows. Judges already have the power to order a defendant whose verdict has not yet been received to attend court. If they fail to obey this order they could be found in contempt of court, which has a maximum penalty of two years in custody.