Proposals to make criminals face up to their crimes have been welcomed by Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Steve Turner.
He has said that it is “cowardly and unacceptable” that people accused of some of society’s worst crimes can refuse to attend sentencing hearings.
Proposals follow several high profile cases – including most recently killer nurse Lucy Letby – in which convicted criminals have refused to attend sentencing and listen to victim impact statements.
“Cowardly and unacceptable”
Steve said: “Victims and their families cannot escape the consequences of the crime – so why should the perpetrator?
“It’s cowardly and unacceptable for convicted criminals to refuse to face up to the cost of their crimes in court when victims have to face the consequences every day for the rest of their lives.
“Tougher rules to make criminals attend hearings and listen to victim impact statements are a way of making criminals face the full consequence of what they have done.
“Serious crime is not carried out in an instant and is gone. It has a major ripple effect on the victim, their loved ones and the wider community for years to come.
“It’s important that the criminal justice system puts victims at the front and centre of whatever it does and gives them a strong voice. It should also make criminals focus on the damage, which they have caused.”
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has put forward new powers under which judges can order offenders to attend sentencing hearings.
Under the proposals, offenders who refuse to attend, could be forced into the dock by prison staff. They may even receive an extra two years in prison
Judges can direct custody officers to use reasonable force to make criminals appear in the dock or via video link under the proposed new legislation.
This new penalty will apply in cases where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
That includes cases of serious sexual or violent crimes like murder, rape, and grievous bodily harm with intent.