Criminals who fail to turn up in court to hear their judgment should face tougher sentences as a matter of “respect” for victims, Dominic Raab has said.
The justice secretary said it should be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing if someone who commits a crime decides to “snub” the court.
Last year, Jordan McSweeney, who was convicted of the murder of law graduate Zara Aleena, provoked further outcry when he decided not to come to the court to hear the verdict.
Asked whether the government was considering forcing judges to bring people up from their cells, Mr Raab told Sky News: “It’s definitely something I’m looking at, I think both as a matter of respect and recognition of the bereaved of victims, but also frankly, respect for the principle of British justice.
“I think we should look at making it an aggravating factor in sentencing if an individual who committed one of these heinous crimes just snubs the court.”
Mr Raab’s intervention comes following an announcement from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) that domestic abusers with a history of coercive or controlling behaviour will be given tougher sentences if they kill their partner.
Judges will be asked to consider longer jail terms for people with a history of abuse and aggression, so that coercive and controlling behaviour, as well as the use of excessive violence, will be made aggravating factors in sentencing decisions for murder.
Manslaughter sentencing guidelines around “rough sex” are also set to be reviewed.
The changes follow a series of recommendations by Clare Wade KC, a leading criminal barrister tasked by the government to carry out an independent review into domestic homicide sentencing.
Ms Wade was the leading defence barrister for Sally Challen, who suffered years of domestic abuse by her husband before she killed him with a hammer in 2010.
Ms Challen was tried and convicted for her husband’s murder but was released in 2019 after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) eventually accepted her plea of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.