A cowardly killer who stabbed his pregnant girlfriend 40 times with a pair of scissors has had his sentencing delayed because he refused to come to court due to “stress”.
Roofer Liam Taylor brutally murdered Ailish Walsh at their flat in Hackney, east London, on December 15 last year. In April, Taylor, 37, pleaded guilty to her murder and the sentencing was adjourned for reports to be prepared.
Members of 28-year-old Ms Walsh’s family had travelled from Ireland to attend Taylor’s sentencing at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, only to learn he was not in the dock or on a video link from Belmarsh prison.
Judge Nigel Lickley KC told the court: “I have had a note from the prison indicating the defendant refused to attend because he had been ‘up all night ill’.
Andrew Morris, defending, said his client did not feel “mentally able” to come because he would find it “extremely stressful” and would be happy to be sentenced in his absence.
Judge Lickley replied: “He has got to hear the evidence and he’s got to hear what people have to say.”
The judge acknowledged the inconvenience for Ms Walsh’s family, but said: “I’m sure they will understand my view, Liam Taylor should be here to be sentenced and everybody will be inconvenienced.”
Ahead of the next hearing, Taylor could be prescribed with medication for his anxiety, the judge suggested. The judge set a hearing for August 8 to hear evidence from a pathologist about Ms Walsh’s injuries, with the sentencing adjourned to August 24.
Previously, prosecutor Jane Osborne KC had said: “The attack was exceptionally brutal and carried out knowing Ms Walsh was carrying the defendant’s child.
“There was a 12-week scan picture and at 22 weeks it would have been fairly evident.”
In a different case at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, another defendant refused to appear by video link charged with murder.
In that case, Judge Anthony Leonard KC warned a barrister that his client may be in “contempt of court”.
He said: “Proceedings will be taken subject to any reason he can produce for his failure. He has committed a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.”
The issue of defendants refusing to attend their sentence hearings has come to the fore in recent years following a string of high-profile cases.
In 2018, “Babes in the Woods” killer Russell Bishop was jailed in his absence at the Old Bailey for at least 36 years for the murders of two Brighton girls in 1986. He died in January 2022 aged 55.
In 2020, Hashem Abedi, the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber, refused to leave his cell and was sentenced in his absence at the Old Bailey to life with a minimum of 55 years in prison for the murder of 22 people.
Last April, Koci Selamaj was jailed for life in his absence for the murder of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa.
Handing him a minimum term of 36 years at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Sweeney said Selamaj was “cowardly” for refusing to attend his sentencing – but that he had no power to force him.
Last May, Conservative MP James Wild suggested that serious offenders were “effectively abusing their victim and the victim’s family once again” as he called for judges to be given the power to increase custodial sentences if they fail to attend court.