Mother of shooting victim Olivia says heart goes out to Letby victims’ families

Cheryl Korbel, the mother of schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel, has been campaigning for a change in the law to force criminals to appear in court.

The mother of shooting victim Olivia Pratt-Korbel has said her heart goes out to the families of Lucy Letby’s victims after the killer nurse did not appear in court for her sentencing.

Cheryl Korbel has been campaigning for a change in the law to force criminals to appear in court after Thomas Cashman, who shot Olivia, nine, after chasing a fellow drug dealer into her home in Dovecot, Liverpool, refused to come up to the dock when he was sentenced to a minimum of 42 years.

On the first anniversary of Olivia’s death, Ms Korbel said her “heart would go out to the families” of the babies attacked by Letby at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Lucy Letby court case
Empty chairs in court after nurse Lucy Letby refused to attend Manchester Crown Court during her sentencing (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Letby, 33, who was found guilty of the murder of seven babies and attempted murder of six others, stopped appearing in the dock at Manchester Crown Court partway through the jury’s deliberations and indicated she did not intend to return to the dock or follow the sentencing hearing by video-link.

Mr Justice Goss said: “The court has no power to force a defendant to attend at a sentencing hearing, therefore, there is nothing I can do in relation to that.”

She was sentenced to a whole-life order in her absence on Monday.

Ms Korbel, who read an impact statement at Cashman’s sentencing, said: “It’s important for the families.

“Writing the impact statement was really hard. It wasn’t going to take minutes. It was days, over a matter of weeks.

“It’s important for the offenders to listen to the pain that they’ve caused, the pain that is ongoing.

“Going to prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation.

“That first port of call of rehabilitation should be in that courtroom and standing there listening to the judge and listening to the families’ impact statements.”

Ms Korbel’s cousin Antonia Elverson said Letby’s failure to appear was “soul-destroying” for the families.

Olivia Pratt-Korbel death
Thomas Cashman, 34, refused to appear in court for his sentencing (Merseyside Police/PA)

Judges have powers to order defendants to come to court prior to verdicts being delivered. If they fail to obey, they can be found in contempt of court and face up to two years in prison – but the law does not extend to sentencing hearings.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the Government is looking at changing the law so criminals are compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.

The PA news agency understands plans for law changes to force criminals to face their sentencing hearing could be put forward as early as the autumn, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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