UK Parliament: judges may compel criminals to attend their sentencing hearings

After serial-killing baby nurse Lucy Letby skipped her own sentencing hearing last week, legislators in the UK are giving judges more explicit power to compel convicted criminals to attend them.

Now the Ministry of Justice says judges will be able to order an offender to attend a sentencing hearing and make it "clear in law" that reasonable force can be used by custody officers to make sure this happens.

If a criminal refuses to attend despite this order, they could face an extra two years in prison. This will apply in cases where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment, including serious sexual or violent crimes like murder, rape, and grievous bodily harm with intent.

Judges will still have the discretion over whether to compel criminals to hear their sentences in order to avoid distressing victims or families if offenders are likely to be disruptive.

Judges can technically accomplish this already, but the BBC found this done only once in the last decade. So the new legislation is perhaps best understood as more of a comment than a question. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak:"Like many, I was appalled that people who have committed awful crimes somehow are able to take the coward's way out and not appear in court for their sentencing and to hear the impact that their crimes have had on the victim's families."

A hidden factor appears to be that Britain has privatized prisoner transport, so it's cheaper to let them stay in their cells.