Ministry of Justice proposes new powers for Judges to Order Offenders to attend Court for Sentencing

The MoJ has proposed giving Judges new powers to to order an offender on remand to attend a sentencing hearing. The proposal has been prompted by a number of high-profile offenders who refused to attend sentencing hearings including Lucy Letby, found guilty of murdering 7 babies and attempting to murder 6 more.

The new law will give custody officers power to use reasonable force to force offenders to appear and will give Judges power to increase the sentence for those who resist by two years.

But whilst the concern on the part of victims and their families to ensure an offender faces justice and hears directly from them of the impact on them of the crime, the question is whether the proposal is really workable in practice or is a knee-jerk reaction to a string of high profile cases (Zara Aleena and Olivia Pratt-Korbel, whose killers both refused to attend court).

An unwilling offender poses a significant risk to custody officers trying to restrain and force them to court and is unlikely to show contrition in the dock. Indeed the offender may well be disruptive, abuse the family or the court and be violent. How in those circumstances if the offender to be restrained?

The Judge’s new power is discretionary and may include a power to order an offender not to attend court if it is expected that they would cause significant disruption or cause distress. But is that not a near foregone conclusion in the case of an offender who has shown no contrition and has refused to attend for sentencing?