Crown Prosecution Service
Prosecutors urged to consider power to compel defendants to attend court
Defendants who refuse to leave their cells for court hearings could be compelled to attend – in handcuffs if necessary – as prosecutors are reminded of the court’s powers in new updated legal guidance.
The guidance, which has been drawn up by the Crown Prosecution Service, asks lawyers to consider whether a defendant should be forced to attend for both the welfare of victims and to keep the justice process running smoothly.
Jonathan Storer, CPS lead on crime in prisons, said:
"For many victims, having their impact statement read in court in front of the defendant is an issue of huge significance. For them to be denied this opportunity can be very upsetting.
“Non-attendance by defendants also means cases can be delayed, trials disrupted and justice frustrated.
"Where there is no good reason for a defendant not to be in court, our new guidance reminds prosecutors of the options available to help the court ensure attendance, or for hearings to go ahead without them.
"This does include an option for the defendant to be brought before the court in handcuffs."
The guidance asks prosecutors to gather as much information as possible from the court, the prison and defence lawyers, on the circumstances and reasons of the non-attendance, whether the defendant knows the case may proceed in their absence, and whether there is any other way of getting them to court.
Decisions on if a prisoner needs to attend will be taken by the court, and a prison will then decide what reasonable steps should be taken to secure attendance, taking into account the defendant’s conduct and behaviour.
Cases may also proceed via video link.
Notes to Editors
- Read the Defendant’s refusal to attend Court legal guidance.
- Jonathan Storer is the Chief Crown Prosecutor of CPS Mersey-Cheshire.
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