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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
David Humphreys

MP renews call for offenders to face justice under 'Olivia's Law'

A call has been made for bereaved families to help shape the law to force cowardly killers like the man who murdered Olivia Pratt-Korbel to face their sentencing hearings.

Earlier this year, Thomas Cashman was jailed for 42 years for the murder of nine-year-old Olivia at her home in Dovecot. Instead of facing up to the pain he had inflicted on Olivia’s mum Cheryl and her family, Cashman hid away in his cell refusing to attend his hearing at Manchester Crown Court.

In Parliament, Ian Byrne, Labour MP for West Derby questioned Justice Secretary Alex Chalk MP on the government’s commitment to making offenders like Cashman face justice and if he would meet with Mr Byrne and Cheryl Korbel to put families at the heart of changing legislation. Mr Byrne said: “I recently tabled an early day motion to formally put on record in this House the pain the wilful absence of an offender at a sentencing hearing causes for bereaved families.

READ MORE: 'Beautiful fun loving' woman, 29, died after abandoning car near walking route

“Can the Secretary of State explain why the legislation cannot be included in the Victims and Prisoners Bill to change this and will he meet with myself and Cheryl Korbel to discuss when legislation will be brought forward and how bereaved families can be at the heart of changing the law to ensure that no bereaved family who has to suffer loss in the fight for justice must face this situation at sentencing ever again?”

Mr Chalk said the government remained steadfastly behind plans to make offenders attend court after being found guilty. In the case of Cashman, his counsel Professor John Cooper KC, told the hearing he would simply not leave his cell.

The Justice Secretary said: “We are committed to bringing forward legislation to enable offenders to be compelled to attend their sentencing hearings. Offenders who rob innocence, betray lives and shatter families should be required to face the consequences of their actions and hear society’s condemnation through the sentencing remarks of the judge.”

Agreeing to meet with Mr Byrne, the Conservative MP added how there was belief from all sides the law needed to change to prevent those responsible from shirking justice. He said: Can I thank the honourable gentleman for raising this case as he does, and for rightly identifying the anguish and the pain, and the insult that families feel when the cowardly defendant refuses to attend court.

“On the specific question he asked, he will understand there are issues of scope, and all sorts of things as to whether legislative measures can be included in certain bills, but of course I’ll be happy to discuss it with him. The central point however is, I think there is a cross party belief there needs to be some legislative progress and we’re committed to that as well.”

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