JERSEY has no plans to follow England and Wales by introducing legislation to force offenders to attend court proceedings for their sentencing, the Home Affairs Minister has confirmed.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice announced proposals to give custody officers the power to use ‘reasonable force’ to make criminals appear in the dock or via video link, a move intended to ensure victims and their families can see justice delivered.
It followed high-profile cases – most recently that of child serial killer Lucy Letby – where offenders refused to be present in court to hear the judge pass sentence or to hear victim impact statements.
Letby’s decision not to attend court where she received a whole life order – ensuring she never leaves prison – was described by one distressed parent as ‘one final act of wickedness’.
Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles said she was not aware that the issue was currently causing concern in Jersey.
Deputy Miles said: ‘As such, there are no changes to the law currently envisaged,’ she said but she added that she would be open to considering a law change if it was a matter of concern to the courts.
‘Whilst this is strictly a matter for the courts, I am mindful that these matters can be complex.
‘On the one hand, there are cases where victims will achieve the satisfaction of seeing justice done by the defendant appearing in person.
‘That said, I am also conscious that there are cases, particularly where there is an uncooperative defendant, whereby compelling the defendant to appear in person can lead to an unpleasant outcome that would be potentially traumatising to victims and families.
‘In any case, the court will be generally best placed to weigh all relevant factors and make a determination in the best interests of justice.
‘If the courts were to report any concerns in this area, I would be open to considering legislative amendments with the above sensitivities in mind,’ the minister said.