Lucy Letby threatens to dodge her next court appearance
Lucy Letby threatens to dodge her next court appearance in move that could deny heartbroken parents the chance to confront the killer nurse – as ministers pledge to bring in new laws forcing serious criminals to come to the dock for sentencing
- Killer nurse made her last appearance in the courtroom on Thursday morning
- Read: Oliva Pratt-Korbel’s killer Thomas Cashman refused to attend sentencing
Lucy Letby has threatened to dodge court next week as ministers pledged to bring in laws forcing serious criminals to come to the dock for their sentencing.
The killer nurse made her last appearance in the courtroom on Thursday morning – 24 hours before jurors finished delivering their final verdicts. She told her legal team she did not wish to attend any more of the proceedings – including her sentencing hearing on Monday.
If she refuses to appear, she will miss the ‘victim impact statements’ which are expected to be delivered by parents of her victims. She will also dodge hearing the judge’s remarks about her crimes.
The Daily Mail understands that law changes requiring offenders to be present in court for their sentencing will be included in the King’s Speech in November.
A Ministry of Justice source said: ‘It is a final insult to victims and their families when criminals don’t stand up to what they’ve done in court. We’re committed to changing the law as soon as we can to ensure that that offenders face the music, or face the consequences.’
Lucy Letby (pictured) has threatened to dodge court next week as ministers pledged to bring in laws forcing serious criminals to come to the dock for their sentencing
The killer nears sitting at her trial last week where she was in attendance
If Letby refuses to appear for her sentencing, she will miss the ‘victim impact statements’ which are expected to be delivered by parents of her victims
It is thought the proposals will allow the use of force to compel offenders to attend or impose an increased jail sentence by making ‘no-shows’ a contempt of court.
The Government first pledged to change the law in February when Dominic Raab said ensuring offenders are present in court for their sentencing was a ‘basic principle of British justice’.
In June, the Justice Secretary said he was ‘committed’ to bringing forward legislation to require criminals to attend their sentencing. Alex Chalk told MPs: ‘Offenders who rob innocence, betray lives and shatter families should be required to face the consequences of their actions and hear society’s condemnation expressed through the sentencing remarks of the judge. I want to know that when an offender is sitting in a cell trying to get to sleep… the judge’s words of condemnation are ringing in their ears.’
Jury praised in longest ever UK murder trial
The eight women and four men on the jury sat for more than ten months, making it the longest murder trial in British history.
They listened to evidence from 246 witnesses – including parents, doctors, nurses and experts – who gave thousands of hours of, at times very distressing, testimony.
Witnesses came from across the UK and the world, with some speaking from Australia via videolink.
The trial was also unique in that it was run almost entirely digitally, with the majority of information – including medical records and nursing notes – uploaded onto individual iPads for easy access.
Two jurors suffered bereavements during the trial, which began on October 10 last year, forcing it to be halted at times. Other days were missed due to personal event and medical appointments.
Detective Superintendent Paul Hughes, from Cheshire Police, paid tribute to the jury, saying: ‘They listened attentively, they were focused and stayed with it. I’m really proud of them for what they have done for the parents in helping them to seek justice.’
It is thought the law change could involve introducing a new legal duty to be present for sentencing.
Alternatively, criminals could face the prospect of longer prison terms if they fail to comply, by allowing judges to treat non-attendance as an aggravating factor in sentencing.
However, the latter option would have no effect on the most serious criminals – such as serial killers – who know they are already facing the prospect of a ‘whole life’ prison term which will see them die behind bars.
It comes after a series of high-profile cases in which criminals have refused to come to court to hear their fate, denying victims the satisfaction of seeing them sent down.
In April, the murderer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel refused to attend his sentencing hearing.
Thomas Cashman, 34, had been found guilty of murdering Olivia and wounding her mother Cheryl Korbel, 46, as he chased a convicted drug dealer into their Liverpool home in August last year.
Ms Korbel said Cashman’s absence was ‘like a kick in the teeth’ and called for the law to be changed.
In December the killer of 35-year-old law graduate Zara Aleena also refused to hear his sentence.
Jordan McSweeney’s absence was condemned as ‘spineless’ and ‘a slap in the face’. Miss Aleena’s aunt told the BBC 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.’
In April last year Koci Selamaj, the killer of school teacher Sabina Nessa was branded a ‘coward’ by her family after he refused to face them at his sentencing hearing.
In 2008, serial killer Levi Bellfield refused to attend court to be sentenced for the murders of Marsha McDonnell, 19, and Amelie Delagrange, 22. Three years later when Bellfield was convicted of murdering 13-year-old Milly Dowler, he again refused to come to the dock for his sentencing.
Labour has called for Mr Chalk to act ‘urgently’.
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