The government is stepping up efforts to stop ‘copycat’ convicts refusing to appear in court, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk says
Avoiding a ‘copy cat’ cycle of convicts refusing to appear in court for sentencing is a key government priority, the Justice Secretary insisted yesterday.
Alex Chalk said there was a ‘real concern’ that serious criminals would imitate previous notorious cases and refuse to come to the dock for sentencing.
Under new laws announced by Rishi Sunak in August, criminals who refuse to attend could face being dragged into court by force. Serious offenders who ‘continue to resist’ will be handed an extra two years’ imprisonment.
The long-awaited new measures were pledged after a series of killers dodged their sentencing hearings, including Britain’s worst child serial killer Lucy Letby.
Others that have refused to attend include Thomas Cashman, the murderer of schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel; Koci Selamaj, the killer of school teacher Sabina Nessa; and Jordan McSweeney, who murdered law graduate Zara Aleena.
‘I think there is a proper public interest for acting promptly because “copy-cattery” is a real concern,’ Mr Chalk told the House of Lords justice and home affairs committee.
Avoiding a ‘copy cat’ cycle of convicts refusing to appear in court for sentencing is a key government priority, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk insisted yesterday
Under new laws announced by Rishi Sunak in August, criminals who refuse to attend could face being dragged into court by force
Failure to attend court led to ‘public outrage’, he added.
‘Once that verdict comes in, they must answer for their crimes – that is the way we keep public confidence in the system and that is why we are bringing in this measure.
‘We will legislate in the coming session and we will get it on the Statute Book before the next election.
‘We are clear that there is a proper public interest and it strengthens the rule of law for victims to understand that those who have shattered lives, betrayed trust and destroyed families should be in court to hear society’s condemnation expressed through the sentencing remarks of the judge.
‘We can’t have the situation where the likes of Thomas Cashman and the killer of Zara Aleena say “I’m not turning up” as a matter of choice.’
In August, officials said the new legislation will make clear that ‘reasonable force’ can be used to bring criminals to the dock, or to view a video link.
If an offender ‘continues to resist attending their sentencing despite a judge’s order’, they will face an extra two years behind bars.
Judges will have discretion over whether they use the new powers.
For example, a judge could decide not to order an offender’s attendance if it could lead to disruption in court which would distress victims or relatives.
The Justice Secretary said judges would be able to decide ‘on the facts of the case in front of them’.
He indicated there would not be a consultation process before the proposals are introduced, but said he was already talking to judges about the measures.
‘There is a proper interest in getting these people in court, there is a proper interest in showing the discretion of the court is upheld – and that is broadly where we have got to,’ he said.
‘That conversation actually does not take long.’
The measures have yet to be published but are expected to be tabled soon as an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
Source: Read Full Article