On Thursday, after the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on one count of the attempted murder of Baby H, Judge James Goss told the court: “Letby has said that he does not intend to attend court again.” courtroom at any stage of this process. .
“I have said that if she is not prepared to attend in person, she will attend via video link. She’s not ready to do that either.”
Judge Goss, who presided over the nine-month trial, said he would not disclose in court the reasons given by Letby for refusing to return to the dock.
But he added: “The sentencing hearing will, of course, take place whether she is present or not. The court has no power to compel the defendant to attend.”
Murderers ‘must listen to society’s condemnation’
Letby’s refusal to appear will increase pressure on the Government to change the law in order to force the defendants to face the verdicts against them and any subsequent sentence.
The Telegraph revealed in June that Alex Chalk, the justice secretary, plans to introduce legislation to force criminals into the dock to “face the consequences of their actions and hear society’s condemnation expressed through the judge’s sentencing comments.
The promise came after Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s killer snubbed a judge and his victim’s family by staying in his cell in April after being convicted of murdering the nine-year-old girl in Liverpool.
Thomas Cashman’s lawyer told the court that the killer believed the case was “turning into a circus” because prosecutors allegedly sang “We are the champions” after his conviction.
His behavior angered Olivia’s relatives, who said they felt her killer was evading the full force of the law by refusing to hear her 42-year sentence in person.
There have been other recent cases of convicted murderers refusing to appear in the dock, drawing the ire of bereaved family members.
Koci Selamaj, who killed schoolteacher Sabina Nessa in September 2021, refused to appear in court for sentencing in April last year, prompting Jebina Islam, his sister, to call him a “coward.”
In December 2021, Emma Tustin refused to come to the dock to face justice for murdering her six-year-old stepson, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, by wildly shaking her head and slamming it against walls and floors.
She was sentenced in her absence to life in prison with a minimum term of 29 years.
According to updated guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service in September last year, lawyers and courts must consider “reasonable force” to ensure the defendant attends the hearing unless there is a legitimate reason, such as ill health. .
This may include forcing them to appear in court in handcuffs.