Closed petition Introduce new laws to force offenders to be present in court for sentencing

Families are currently being deprived the opportunity of gaining full closure because offenders can choose not to appear in court for sentencing.

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We want the law to require offenders to be in court for sentencing, to give victims and their families every chance to witness justice be delivered.

Following a number of high-profile cases where serious criminal offenders refused to be in the dock when their sentence is passed down, we are petitioning for a change in the law so they can be forced to appear.

We want prison and court staff to be given powers to use reasonable force to get offenders into the dock - as they do to transfer them from a court to prison.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

39,906 signatures

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Government responded

This response was given on 18 August 2023

The Government is carefully considering changing the law so that offenders are required to face up to their actions and victims can see justice being served.

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The Government fully appreciates that an offender’s refusal to attend their sentencing hearing can cause enormous upset and anger for victims and their families. That is why, during his leadership bid, the Prime Minister committed to making offenders spend longer in prison for non-attendance, and the Lord Chancellor confirmed in April that the Government will bring forward legislation to deliver this change as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Under the current law, courts can ensure in most cases that offenders appear to face the consequences of their crimes. However, it is the case that an offender who is being held in prison on remand cannot currently be forced to attend their sentencing hearing. We are therefore carefully considering how best to address this issue.

While in many cases it would clearly give victims closure to have the offender present, we realise that there may be cases where an offender is likely to be disruptive in court, or where ensuring their attendance would cause delays. In these cases, the offender’s presence may be distressing to victims and their families. In such circumstances, it may be in the best interests of justice and of victims to proceed in their absence. Courts must have the discretion to do what is right in each case.

Victims remain at the heart of this Government’s priorities. We are committed to ensuring that offenders are required to face up to their actions and victims can see justice being served and, as we have made clear, will be bringing forward legislation as soon as possible to address the issue of non-attendance at sentencing hearings.

Ministry of Justice