Cowardly killers must be sentenced in person, says mother of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9 - after Lucy Letby hid in cells

21 August 2023, 22:40 | Updated: 22 August 2023, 07:33

Olivia Pratt Korbel's killer did not attend his sentencing
Olivia Pratt Korbel's killer did not attend his sentencing. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Chambers

The mum of murdered nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel has told LBC she was robbed of the opportunity to tell her daughter’s killer how much pain he has caused her family.

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Thomas Cashman shot Olivia through the front door of her home in Knotty Ash in Liverpool a year ago on Tuesday as he tried to murder a rival gang member.

Armed with two handguns, Cashman chased his intended victim, Joseph Nee, along Kingsheath Avenue and into Cheryl Korbel’s home as Nee tried to find an escape route.

Cashman kept on shooting, hitting Cheryl in the wrist and Olivia in the chest as she hid behind her mum.

Having been found guilty of Olivia’s murder, Cashman refused to attend court for his sentencing and was ultimately given a life sentence with a minimum term of 42 years.

Cashman is one of several high-profile killers in recent years who have refused to come to court for their sentencing.

Killer nurse Lucy Letby was not in the dock to hear herself given a whole life order on Monday, for murdering seven babies and trying to kill six more.

Jordan McSweeney, who murdered Zara Aleena in east London last year, also remained in the cells for his sentencing, which saw him jailed for a minimum of 38 years.

The government is working on a law to force criminals to attend their sentencing, although some have worried that it would be difficult to manage in practice.

Read more: Olivia Pratt-Korbel murder trial witness attacked at home and slashed in the head by masked men

Read more: Olivia Pratt-Korbel killer Thomas Cashman will not get tougher jail sentence after complaints it is too lenient

Olivia Pratt-Korbel was killed by Cashman
Olivia Pratt-Korbel was killed by Cashman. Picture: Handout

Discussing Cashman's refusal to attend his sentencing, Cheryl told LBC: “I was shocked, because I didn’t realise he had a choice.

"Angry, because he’d been there through the whole trial as myself and my family had been there for the whole trial.

"That day of sentencing was our time to voice what we’d been through. The pain we were going through, still are going through. And he never turned up. Basically, he’s a coward.

Olivia was killed in August last year
Olivia was killed in August last year. Picture: LBC / Merseyside Police

"I wanted him to hear the pain he has caused, and I wanted to see if there was any reaction from him. Any remorse. Him not turning up shows there’s no remorse.

"There’s days I wake up and think I don’t want to get out of bed, but I just think of our Liv, at the end of the day she hasn’t got a voice, so we will be her voice.

Thomas Cashman was jailed for Olivia's murder
Thomas Cashman was jailed for Olivia's murder. Picture: CPS

"Prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation, and the first port of call should be in that court room listening to those impact statements.”

Since Olivia’s murder, Cheryl and her family have moved away from Kingsheath Avenue.

She said: “It is difficult to go back. I had two very good friends who lived either side of me.

"I still go and see them, as hard as it is, because they’re not stopping me from going down. They’re not ruining anything else."

Officials faced calls to give Cashman a longer sentence, with some people claiming his sentence of 42 years behind bars was too lenient.

But Michael Tomlinson KC, the solicitor general, said it would not be referred to the Court of Appeal.

"Olivia Pratt-Korbel's senseless murder at the hands of Thomas Cashman shocked and sickened the nation," he said in May.

"Because of the strong feelings this case evokes, it was little surprise that I received several requests under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme to consider the sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 42 years that was handed down to him.

"My duty as a Law Officer in considering whether sentences may be unduly lenient is to act independently of government, even when it is not easy or popular.

"Having received detailed legal advice and considered the issues raised very carefully, I have concluded Cashman's case cannot properly be referred to the Court of Appeal.

"Such a referral can only be made if the rigorous legal test is met, irrespective of the seriousness of the crime or the emotions the offending may evoke. The threshold for referral is a high one, and that was not met in this case.

"The test is only met if the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range reasonably available in the circumstances of the offending.

"My thoughts remain with Olivia's family and friends who have shown such immeasurable strength during this devastating time."

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