Dominic Raab should “move forward” with plans to force criminals to attend their sentencing hearing, the aunt of murdered law graduate Zara Aleena has said.
Farah Naz made the comments after Olivia Pratt-Korbel’s killer, Thomas Cashman, refused to face the murdered nine-year-old’s family in court at his sentencing hearing on Monday.
He is beginning a life sentence and must spend at least 42 years behind bars before being considered for parole.
Jordan McSweeney, who murdered 35-year-old Ms Aleena as she walked home in Ilford, east London, on June 26 last year, also refused to face her family in court before being jailed for life with a minimum term of 38 years last December.
When lawyer Craig Mackenzie, who appeared alongside her, suggested the plan was impractical she claimed there are “other ways” to implement it that do not involve dragging defendants kicking and screaming into the dock.
She added: “Surely the judgment is part of the punishment… we need to see that the process will deter further crime and how can the process feel like a punishment if the convict actually exercises their bit of power? It’s the last bit of power that needs to be taken away, certainly in our eyes.
“I think there are other ways to make the convict come to face their judgment and that would be to add time to their sentencing or there can be other ways.
“Otherwise we don’t have people deterred from committing crimes if they’re just moving from cell to cell there’s no sense of punishment.
She described McSweeney refusing to attend his sentencing as a “further slap in the face” and “another attack from him”.
She also said the family had “anticipated the moment” they would be able to look at McSweeney and give their victim impact statement, adding that it felt like an “incomplete process” after he refused to turn up.
She added that she felt “really sad” for Olivia’s family that they were not able to see the man who “destroyed their lives” being sentenced.
Mr Mackenzie suggested the proposals were impractical because victims’ families could be even more distressed if criminals become very disruptive during sentencing hearings they have been forced to attend.
“This is exactly why the Deputy Prime Minister is committed to changing the law so that offenders are forced to face the consequences of their actions.”
Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Steve Reed, said: “It’s an absolute scandal that the Tory Government has stood by while killers, rapists and terrorists pick and choose whether they turn up to face justice.
“It is disrespectful and grossly offensive to victims that criminals can refuse to face the consequences of their crimes in court. For victims and their families, this can be a vital part of seeing justice done.
“Labour called for new laws on this back in April last year – but the Conservatives have dragged their feet and failed to act.
“Labour will always put victims of crime first and give judges the power to force offenders to face the consequences of their actions in court. Victims deserve nothing less.”