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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Sophie Huskisson

Tories savaged over failure to force killers to face victims' families in court

Tory ministers have been savaged over their failure to force criminals to attend court for their sentencing.

MPs raised concerns as they debated new sentencing legislation, which does not address the problem.

Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed accused the Government of doing “nothing while killers, rapists and terrorists pick and choose whether they turn up to face the consequences of their crimes”.

In April Thomas Cashman refused to leave his cell when he was sentenced for murdering nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool.

Other offenders who have refused to attend sentencing hearings include the murderers of Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa.

The Mirror has launched the Face Justice campaign to call for an urgent change in the law to force killers to face their victims' families.

Thomas Cashman refused to leave his cell when he was sentenced for murdering the nine-year-old (PA)
Olivia Pratt-Korbel was fatally shot inside her home in Liverpool last August (PA)

Mr Reed told the Commons: "In recent months, victims of the most horrific crimes have faced the insult of convicted criminals refusing to turn up in court to face sentencing in person.

“It’s grossly offensive to victims and their families to let criminals have this hold over them at such a difficult moment.”

Mr Reed said it was “disappointing” not to see a law forcing criminals to attend court as part of the new Victims’ and Prisoners’ Bill.

“I hope the Government will reconsider. But if they won’t act, then the next Labour government will,” he added.

“We will give judges the power to force offenders to stand in the dock in open court while they are sentenced.”

During a debate about the new legislation, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk paid tribute to the families of James Bulger and Zara Aleena, as he said they are owed a "profound debt of gratitude" for finding the “strength to strengthen the system for others”.

He said victims "must be treated not as mere spectators of the criminal justice system, but core participants in it".

"That is the mission of this Government and that is the mission of this Bill,” he added.

The aunt of Zara Aleena (above) said denying families the chance to face attackers prolongs the agony (PA)

Mr Chalk said an addition to the bill will be brought forward to make it "crystal clear" that police will not be able to access therapy notes in rape and sexual assault cases.

He said: "I know that routine police requests for therapy notes or other personal records can be incredibly distressing for victims, they can feel as if they are the ones under scrutiny.

“Some may even be deterred from seeking support for fear of their personal records being shared.

"Our Bill will make sure that these requests are only made when strictly necessary for the purposes of a fair trial."

Disgraced ex-Justice Secretary Dominic Raab vowed to change the law to force criminals to attend court in February but never ended up setting a timescale.

He only said it would be earlier than the next election – possibly in 2025 – before resigning after a bombshell report upheld bullying claims against him.

Labour last year pledged to give judges the option to force defendants to attend sentencing and suggested punishing no-shows as contempt of court.

* Follow Mirror Politics on Snapchat , Tiktok , Twitter and Facebook .

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