Pressure grows for new law to punish 'coward' criminals who refuse to face court for sentencing

4 April 2023, 10:11 | Updated: 4 April 2023, 10:18

Thomas Cashman (L) and Jordan McSweeney (R) both refused to appear in court
Thomas Cashman (L) and Jordan McSweeney (R) both refused to appear in court. Picture: PA/Met Police

By Asher McShane

Dominic Raab is facing growing pressure to fast-track new laws that would punish criminals who refuse to appear in court for sentencing.

It comes after the killer of Olivia Pratt-Korbel refused to enter the dock yesterday, saying his case had turned into a ‘circus’ because prosecutors allegedly sang ‘We are the Champions’ following his conviction.

Victims and campaigners, as well as politicians, are now urging the Justice Secretary to close the loophole that allowed Cashman to remain in his cell during his sentencing without any penalty.

Mr Raab has pledged to make refusal to attend court an aggravating factor in sentencing.

LBC Views: If criminals don't face their victims at sentencing then make their time behind bars harder

Read more: Mum's touching tribute to murdered Olivia: Pink 'memory' teddy made from pyjamas she was dressed in at hospital

Read more: Outrage as man, 21, who raped girl, 13, in park walks free from court after judge considers him too young to be jailed

Another high-profile case was that of Zara Aleena, a law student beaten to death in the street in London. Her killer refused to come to court, denying her family the chance to confront him.

Mr Raab is said to be “committed to changing the law so that offenders are forced to face the consequences of their actions.”

Farah Naz, Zara’s aunt, said criminals refusing to appear in court was becoming a ‘trend’ as criminals know they can get away with showing disrespect to their victims and their families.

“ I don’t know why they cannot be physically forced to appear in court,” she told the Telegraph.

Thomas Cashman, 34, remained in his cell as he was sentenced for shooting Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9, at her home in the Knotty Ash area of Liverpool.

He was jailed for 42 years yesterday. Cashman's counsel, John Cooper KC, said: "He has been spoken to and been given certain advice but he is concerned that the matter is turning into a circus."

Mrs Justice Yip said she regarded his lack of attendance as "disrespectful" to not only the court but those interested in proceedings, including the family of the deceased.

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