James has been troubled by recent murder cases where defendants have refused to come to court for their sentencing hearings and he has campaigned for a change in the law to give Judges powers to require offenders to attend court for sentencing, or to impose a longer sentence if they refuse.
Instead of coming to court, some offenders choose to hide away in their cells rather than face their victims and their families and hear the often-harrowing impact statements. This is effectively further abusing the victims and, in the House of Commons in May 2022, James called on Ministry of Justice ministers to introduce changes to give judges the power to make them attend for murder, rape, and other serious cases. He also met Justice ministers to press for a change.
It is important for public confidence that justice is seen to be done. When defendants in murder, rape and other serious cases hide in their cells and fail to appear for sentencing, they are effectively abusing their victim and the victim’s family once again.
Clearly, there may be instances where a defendant may be incredibly disruptive in court and James also urged the government to consider giving judges powers to increase custodial sentences in such circumstances. The government committed to look at potential changes including whether this should be an aggravating factor for consideration in sentencing.
In August last year, Thomas Cashman shot dead 9-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, the daughter of Cheryl Korbel, in her own home and callously chose not to hear the impact her death had on her family at his sentencing. A few days later Malcolm Appleby from Middleton was found guilty of sexual assault of a girl under 13 but refused to attend his sentencing hearing at Norwich Crown Court.
In August 2023 the Prime Minister announced that the government would change the law with a new power for judges to order offenders to attend sentencing hearings and offenders who refuse could be forced into the dock by prison staff or receive an extra 2 years in prison