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  • Writer's pictureLeah Hester

Offenders to be ordered to attend sentencing.


Legal court, rule of law and criminal courtroom concept with photograph of golden Old Bailey statue of lady justice holding a balance scale and sword

The government has today announced proposed new measures to force criminals to attend their sentencing.


Under the proposed legislation (to be introduced), Judges will have new powers to order offenders to attend sentencing hearings and “reasonable force” may be used to make sure this happens. Offenders who resist will face an extra two years’ imprisonment.


What are the implications?


A sense of justice for the victim’s family. Lucy Letby provoked outrage earlier this month when she failed to appear for her sentencing. One bereaved mother called Letby’s absence “one final act of wickedness from a coward”.


A victim personal statement gives a victim or a victim’s family the opportunity to express in their own words the impact that the crime has had on them. By giving those convicted the choice to opt out of attending court, they do not have to hear such statements. Many have argued that this denies victims a sense of justice and swings in favour of the convicted by enabling them to escape facing those to whom they have caused immeasurable pain.


Breach of a prisoner's human rights?


In the alternative, some might say compelling those convicted of serious crimes to attend court constitutes inhuman treatment under human rights law.


Do the measures go too far?


What will “reasonable force” look like and what guidance will be given to custody officers to ensure the use of force is proportionate?


Are the measures arbitrary and do they violate a prisoner’s human rights?


Discretion.


Judges will have the discretion to use these new powers as they see fit to ensure justice is done. This may also include ordering offenders not to attend in cases where this may cause significant disruption or distress victims and their families.


It will remain for judges to decide whether it is in the interests of justice to order an offender to attend court and for prison staff and custody officers to decide whether the use of force is reasonable and proportionate in each case.


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