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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Anthony France

Mum of Olivia Pratt-Korbel furious as Lucy Letby snubs victims’ families

The mother of murdered Olivia Pratt-Korbel has said her heart goes out to the families of Lucy Letby’s victims after the killer nurse did not appear in court for her sentencing.

Cheryl Korbel has been campaigning for a change in the law to force criminals to appear in court after Thomas Cashman, who shot Olivia, nine, after chasing a fellow drug dealer into her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, refused to come up to the dock when he was sentenced to a minimum of 42 years.

On the first anniversary of Olivia’s death, Ms Korbel said her “heart would go out to the families” of the babies attacked by Letby at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Letby, 33, who was found guilty of the murder of seven babies and attempted murder of six others, stopped appearing in the dock at Manchester Crown Court partway through the jury’s deliberations and indicated she did not intend to return to the dock or follow the sentencing hearing by video-link.

Mr Justice Goss said: “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.”

She was sentenced to a whole-life order in her absence on Monday.

Ms Korbel, who read an impact statement at Cashman’s sentencing, said: “It’s important for the families.

Cheryl Korbel, the mother of shooting victim Olivia Pratt-Korbel (ITN/PA Wire)

“Writing the impact statement was really hard. It wasn’t going to take minutes. It was days, over a matter of weeks.

“It’s important for the offenders to listen to the pain that they’ve caused, the pain that is ongoing.

“Going to prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation.

“That first port of call of rehabilitation should be in that courtroom and standing there listening to the judge and listening to the families’ impact statements.”

She had previously described his absence from court as a “kick in the teeth” and “punch in the stomach”.

Ms Korbel joins the families of Elle Edwards, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa to demand a law change to stop “cowardly” offenders from “hiding” when they are sentenced.

Ms Korbel’s cousin Antonia Elverson said Letby’s failure to appear was “soul-destroying” for the families.

Judges have powers to order defendants to come to court prior to verdicts being delivered. If they fail to obey, they can be found in contempt of court and face up to two years in prison – but the law does not extend to sentencing hearings.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the Government is looking at changing the law so criminals are compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.

(Family handout/PA) (PA Media)

It is understood plans for law changes to force criminals to face their sentencing hearing could be put forward as early as the autumn, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

An aunt of law graduate Ms Aleena, murdered on Cranbrook Road, Ilford in June last year, has suggested putting a camera on criminals and live-streaming their sentencing into their cells if they refuse to attend court.

Speaking on Times Radio, Farah Naz said reading victim impact statements at the sentencing of her niece’s killer, Jordan McSweeney, without him present “felt farcical”.

Asked if live-streaming the sentencing into the cell would be enough consolation for the families of Letby’s victims, she said: “Nothing will ever be enough, will it? Nothing is enough. But I think that is a way... the live-streaming in the cell... that the person is forced to hear the proceedings in the courtroom, and also a camera can be put on them.

“If the families want to see her face whilst she hears the sentencing while she’s in the cell, why not? Why not do something like that?”

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