Families bereaved by some of Britain’s most high-profile recent murder cases have demanded a new law forcing killers to appear in court following the trial of neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.
Relatives of Olivia Pratt-Korbel and Elle Edwards, who were both shot dead in Merseyside last year, said the expected absence of the serial killer from her sentencing was an “insult” and “disrespectful”.
The 33-year-old, convicted of murdering seven babies and the attempted murder of six others, stayed in her cell for several of her guilty verdicts and isn’t expected to face the judge on Monday.
The case has sparked renewed calls for a change in the law to force criminals to face justice in person.
Cheryl Korbel, the mother of nine-year-old Olivia, has been running a campaign called Face The Family, having been denied the chance to watch gunman Thomas Cashman being sentenced earlier this year.
He fired shots into their family home in Dovecot, Liverpool, last August, during what prosecutors described as a “ruthless pursuit” to execute another man.
Ms Korbel told Sky News she was “in shock” when she realised Olivia’s killer, who was jailed for at least 42 years, could choose whether to appear in court.
“We’d spent weeks doing impact statements,” she said.
“Those feelings were deep down, and bringing them to the surface was really hard, but we did it. And to find out we weren’t able to face him was just horrendous.”
Killers ‘must see pain they’ve caused’
Ms Korbel said she wanted Cashman to see and hear “the pain he caused”, and said killers like him and Letby must face bereaved families to “help them realise what they’ve done”.
Her campaign has been backed by the father of beautician Ms Edwards, who died when Connor Chapman fired a submachine gun into a crowd outside a pub in Wallasey on Christmas Eve.
Tim Edwards did get to face her killer in court, and told Sky News it helped bring closure after a long trial.
“To have him stood in front of us in the dock and listen to what we had to say was important,” he said.
“At least we have the satisfaction and knowledge that he has heard what we’ve gone through.
“How he processes that is out of our hands, but it’s important you’re given that chance to do that.”
Justice system ‘not shown in good light’
Mr Edwards admitted he had to show “restraint” when Chapman – who was jailed for a minimum of 48 years – walked past him in the courtroom and stood in the dock.
He said he “stared at him” throughout and “could see for myself he was a coward”.
Mr Edwards said it was “very disrespectful” that other bereaved families didn’t get to see justice served.
“It’s not good enough – it’s becoming more of a pattern for guilty murderers to use this option,” he added.
“It doesn’t show the justice system in a good light.”
Sky News understands the government is looking to change the law to force criminals to appear in court in light of the Letby trial.
The guilty verdicts, which related to incidents at the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2015 and 2016, were delivered over a period of a number of days and she was only present for the first two.
A Ministry of Justice source said it was a “final insult” to victims and families when criminals didn’t appear in court.
“We’re committed to changing the law as soon as we can to ensure offenders face the consequences,” they added.