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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Kim Pilling

Lucy Letby indicates she will not attend sentencing for child serial killings

PA Media

Child serial killer Lucy Letby has indicated she does not want to take any part in her sentencing hearing next week.

A reporting ban was imposed until the jury in her trial at Manchester Crown Court had returned all of its verdicts on the seven counts of murder and 15 counts of attempted murder the nurse faced.

Letby, 33, was in the courtroom on August 8 when the jury returned its first two guilty verdicts of attempted murder, and then again on August 11 when she was convicted of four murders and another two attempted murders.

However, at the end of the court day on August 11 the defendant did not return to the dock as the jury was sent home for the weekend.

The court has no power to force a defendant to attend at a sentencing hearing, therefore there is nothing I can do in relation to that
— Mr Justice Goss

Letby returned to court the following week but her made last appearance in Court Seven on the morning of August 16 when trial judge Mr Justice Goss sent the jury out to continue its deliberations.

More verdicts were returned later that day, in her absence, and again on August 17 when the court heard Letby had indicated to her legal team that she did not intend to return to the dock.

Letby continued to be produced at court from prison but would not come up from the cells.

Her parents, John and Sue, who had previously attended the trial every day, did not come to court on Friday as the trial ended.

Letby has also indicated she does not wish to follow Monday’s sentencing hearing via videolink from prison, the court was told.

The reasons for her non-attendance have not yet been disclosed by the judge.

Mr Justice Goss said: “The sentencing hearing will of course take place whether she is present or not.

“The court has no power to force a defendant to attend at a sentencing hearing, therefore there is nothing I can do in relation to that.”

Earlier this year, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the Government is “committed” to changing the law so criminals are compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.

It came after his predecessor, Dominic Raab, promised to act while under pressure over the non-attendance of the killers of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa to stop offenders convicted of the most serious crimes dodging court and avoiding facing justice.

Thomas Cashman was jailed for life imprisonment with a minimum term of 42 years for fatally shooting nine-year-old Olivia at her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, while pursuing a fellow drug dealer.

Sex attacker Jordan McSweeney murdered 35-year-old law graduate Ms Aleena as she walked home in Ilford, east London, and was jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years.

Koci Selamaj received life with at least 36 years for murdering primary school teacher Ms Nessa after travelling to London to carry out an attack on a random woman.

Each refused to appear in court for sentencing, with their punishments being handed down in their absence.

We are committed to bringing forward legislation to enable offenders to be compelled to attend their sentencing hearings
— Justice Secretary Alex Chalk

Olivia’s mother Cheryl Korbel called for the law to be changed to make sure criminals are in court for sentencing, saying Cashman’s absence was “like a kick in the teeth”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously refused to say if the proposed legislation would be introduced before the next general election, which is anticipated to take place next year.

Mr Chalk is also yet to confirm when the proposals would be introduced to Parliament despite calls from Labour to act “urgently”, while campaigners have pressed ministers to put forward plans before the end of the current parliamentary session in the autumn.

Speaking at Commons justice questions in June, Mr Chalk said: “We are committed to bringing forward legislation to enable offenders to be compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.”

He said offenders whose crimes “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”.

The Justice Secretary said he wants to know that when offenders are “sitting in the cells trying to get to sleep” that “ringing in their ears are those words of condemnation from the judge, because there are victims who find it hard ever to recover; why should that defendant ever have to sleep soundly in their bed?”.

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