Non-attendance at court

Image credit: “Into the Prison” by Bill Nicholls is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

An increasingly common occurrence is some defendants refusing to leave prison to attend sentencing hearings.

Judges frequently opine that there is no adequate remedy, and this has caused concern with both victim groups and politicians demanding action.

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.”

In the future, prosecutors will be more likely to attempt to persuade a Judge to compel a prisoner’s attendance in court.

Decisions will be taken by the court, and a prison governor will then decide what reasonable steps should be taken to secure attendance, taking into account the defendant’s conduct and behaviour.

If necessary, prison officers can use force to compel attendance.

However, whether it is judged appropriate to do so remains to be seen; the conventional view is that the risk to the officers’ and prisoners’ safety is not worth it.

We would advise all clients to attend court as directed and discuss with us in advance any intention not to do so so that we can give detailed advice before making a decision.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.

Mr John Stokes (,
Mr Anthony Pearce ( or
Mr Daniel Woodman (

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