Law change ‘at earliest opportunity’ so offenders will be compelled to attend sentencing

The Justice Secretary has vowed to vary the regulation on the “earliest opportunity” to make sure severe offenders will be compelled to attend their sentencing following the refusal by baby assassin Lucy Letby to look within the dock.

The 33-year-old was not current to listen to phrases of condemnation from the choose and victims’ households at Manchester Crown Court on Monday, prompting additional outrage.

Letby was given a whole-life order on the listening to after final week being convicted of the murders of seven infants and the tried murders of six extra.

Earlier this yr, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk mentioned the Government was “committed” to altering the regulation in a manner that might permit criminals to be compelled to attend their sentencing, after the killers of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa additionally refused to face within the dock for their very own.

Mr Chalk mentioned on Monday: “Lucy Letby is not just a murderer but a coward, whose failure to face her victims’ families, refusing to hear their impact statements and society’s condemnation, is the final insult.

“We are looking to change the law so offenders can be compelled to attend sentencing hearings.”

He added: “Cases like these make me even more determined to make sure the worst offenders attend court to face justice, when ordered by the judge.

“That’s why we are looking at options to change the law at the earliest opportunity to ensure that in the silence that follows the clang of the prison gate, society’s condemnation will be ringing in prisoners’ ears.”

The PA information company understands plans might be put ahead as early because the autumn, as quickly as parliamentary time permits.

But Labour chief Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of “dragging its heels” over making the change.

He mentioned: “I hope the Government will do it because I think it can be done very quickly.

“If they don’t, we will force an amendment to appropriate legislation. But actually, my position is to invite the Government to get on with it, to offer Labour’s support so this could go through very, very quickly.

“This isn’t the first case. The Government has been dragging its heels on this. Get on with it, for the sake of these victims, and of course, the other cases that went before it.”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed quoted Mr Chalk’s phrases again to him on Twitter, and criticised the tempo of supply, saying: “‘Looking to change’? Labour called for the law to be changed last year to force criminals to attend sentencing.

“Your predecessor said he agreed but did nothing. Now you are only ‘looking at’ it. Victims have suffered enough. Get on with it.”

Having as soon as seen somebody within the United States certain and gagged in courtroom, I don’t assume that that’s an applicable answer

Former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak informed broadcasters on Monday: “It’s cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear first-hand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones.

“We are looking, and have been, at changing the law to make sure that that happens and that’s something that we’ll bring forward in due course.”

But Lord Thomas, a cross-bench peer and former Lord Chief Justice, voiced warning on any try to make use of power to require folks attend.

He informed BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that for sentences wanting whole-life phrases the “obvious” reply is to have powers so as to add to the sentence if the individual convicted fails to attend.

But he mentioned the specter of an extended sentence could be “completely pointless” within the case of somebody already receiving a whole-life order, resembling Letby.

Addressing the choice of forcibly requiring the convicted to attend sentencing, he added: “Having once seen someone in the United States bound and gagged in court, I don’t think that that is an appropriate solution.”

He mentioned one various could be to broadcast the choose’s remarks to the individual’s cell.

Pressure can also be mounting on the Government to offer larger powers to an inquiry it has introduced into Letby’s crimes by placing it on a statutory footing and guaranteeing it’s led by a choose.

Downing Street advised the inquiry might be placed on a statutory footing however couldn’t say when phrases of reference could be revealed.

Children’s minister Claire Coutinho had earlier argued {that a} non-statutory inquiry could be “much quicker”.

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