Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has paid tribute to Cheryl Korbel as new laws are proposed which will make criminals attend their sentencing hearing.
The new rules, proposed by the Ministry of Justice, give judges the power to order criminals to attend hearings, and custody officers will be able to use “reasonable force” to make offenders appear in the dock or via video link.
Those who do not appear for sentencing could also face an extra two years in jail if they ignore a judge’s order – with the new penalties applying in cases where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
Cheryl Korbel, the mother of Olivia Pratt-Korbel was among those who had urged for a law change after the nine-year-old’s killer, Thomas Cashman refused to appear in the dock to be sentenced.
The Face the Family campaign, supported by the PCC, brought people together to pressure the Government to accelerate a change in legislation.
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said, “I welcome today’s news that the Government have committed to enshrine the Face the Family campaign in law.
“This announcement is testament to the tireless campaigning of Cheryl Korbel and other bereaved families who have battled to improve the system for others.
“Victims and families show incredible strength, often reliving their experiences in open court, and for many seeing the perpetrator sentenced is a crucial step in their process of gaining some closure. Despicable individuals like Thomas Cashman should be made to listen to those whose lives they have shattered and face up to the devastating consequences of their abhorrent actions.
“This isn’t a huge change in the law, but it is an important step in helping to shift the power balance, putting the needs of victims before offenders and ensuring those have suffered have their voices heard.”
Powers already exist to compel criminals to attend hearing and offenders can be held in contempt of court if they refuse to do so, but these new proposals would put the judge’s ability to increase sentences by two years in legislation.
Equally, the use of force by prison officers would be enshrined in law.
Speaking at a summit in June calling for a change in the law, Cheryl Korbel said, “It’s a long time doing that impact statement and really hard.
“Then to turn up at court and he doesn’t turn up.
“To go through the whole trial process, having been cocky because he thought he was going to get away with it which was annoying as well because as much as we wanted to react to that, we never. We stayed calm, dignified, it hurts.
“These offenders need to know the impact it’s causing on the victims.”
Labour leader, Kier Starmer said, “After losing Olivia, the strength shown by Cheryl Korbel has moved us all. Meeting with her was a reminder that if the justice system doesn’t work for victims, it doesn’t work. As Director of Public Prosecutions, I put victims first. As Prime Minister, I’ll do it again.”