Killer nurse Lucy Letby is refusing to appear in court on Monday when she is due to be sentenced for the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of another six.
There was mounting anger after it emerged the 33-year-old had told her defence lawyers that she will not come up from the cells to hear the judge deliver his sentencing remarks.
Letby had already refused to go into the dock at Manchester Crown Court for much of this week’s proceedings, when the jury came back to return their verdicts on many of the separate counts of murder and attempted murder she faced.
She had previously been in the courtroom to hear her pronounced guilty on two counts of attempted murder, at which point she broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
Three days later, on Friday Aug 11, six more guilty verdicts were handed down, including four counts of murder.
This time Letby kept her head bowed throughout – but since then has refused to return to the dock.
On Thursday, after the jury returned a verdict of not guilty on a count of attempted murder of Baby H, Mr Justice James Goss told the court: “Letby has said she does not intend to attend the court room again at any stage of these proceedings.
“I’ve said that if she is not prepared to attend in person would she attend by way of video link. She is not prepared to do that either.”
Judge Goss, who has presided over the nine-month-long trial, said he would not reveal 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’s present or not. The court has no power to force the defendant to attend.”
Killers ‘must hear society’s condemnation’
Letby’s refusal to appear will increase pressure on the Government to change the law in order to force defendants to face the verdicts against them and any subsequent sentencing.
The Telegraph revealed in June that Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, is planning to introduce legislation to force criminals into the dock to “face the consequences of their actions and hear society’s condemnation expressed through the sentencing remarks of the judge”.
The pledge came after the killer of Olivia Pratt-Korbel snubbed the judge and his victim’s family by remaining in his cell in April after being convicted of murdering the nine-year-old 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” following his conviction.
His behaviour infuriated Olivia’s relatives, who said they felt her murderer was evading the full force of the law by refusing to hear his sentence of 42 years in person.
There have been other recent cases of convicted killers refusing to appear in the dock, provoking anger among grieving relatives.
Koci Selamaj, who killed school teacher Sabina Nessa in September 2021, refused to appear in court to be sentenced in April last year, prompting Jebina Islam, her sister, to call him a “coward”.
In December 2021 Emma Tustin refused to come into the dock to face justice for murdering her six-year-old stepson Arthur Labinjo-Hughes by savagely shaking his head and slamming it against the walls and floor.
She was sentenced in her absence to life in prison with a minimum term of 29 years.
Under updated guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution in September last year, lawyers and courts should consider “reasonable force” to ensure a defendant attends a hearing unless there is a legitimate reason, such as ill health.
This can include forcing them to come to court in handcuffs.
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