Lucy Letby: Pressure grows for new law forcing killers to attend court

Give murderers nowhere to hide: As serial child-killer Lucy Letby refuses to leave her cell to face her victims’ families, pressure grows on Rishi Sunak to speed up new law allowing courts to drag criminals in to learn their fate

  •  Murderous nurse sparked fury by staying away from Manchester Crown Court
  • Judge Mr Justice Goss has said he has no power to force a defendant to attend 

Rishi Sunak faces a growing chorus of demands to speed up law changes forcing criminals to appear in court for sentencing after child-killer Lucy Letby hid in her cell rather than face her victims’ families.

The murderous nurse sparked widespread fury by staying away from Manchester Crown Court today, where she was jailed for the rest of her life for murdering seven new-borns and trying to kill six others.

Trial judge Mr Justice Goss has said he has no power to force a defendant to attend a sentencing hearing.

It meant bereaved mothers and fathers of her victims, some of whom were only days-old, were left to frustratingly address a dock containing three empty seats.

The mother of Child E, a premature boy who died, and Child F, his twin brother, who survived, told the court that the nurse’s refusal to appear was ‘just one final act of wickedness from a coward’. 

Mr Sunak and senior ministers today pledged to change the law to give judges the power to drag the worst offenders into court to learn their face,.

But they put no timescale on when it might happen, and the PM’s spokesman today declined to confirm the change would be in place before the next general election, which is not expected to take place until May 2024 at the earliest.

Bereaved mothers and fathers of her victims, some of whom were only days-old, were left to frustratingly address a dock containing three empty seats. 

Children’s nurse Lucy Letby (pictured in a custody photo, left; and while working in hospital, right) went on a year-long killing spree while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital

Earlier this year, then justice secretary Dominic Raab said he wanted the law changed by the time voters next went to the polls. Asked if this was still the aim, the spokesman said: ‘I’m not putting a specific timescale on it, we want to do it as soon as possible’. 

However plans could be put forward as early as the autumn, as soon as parliamentary time allows, it is understood.

Letby has also refused to give closure to her victims’ families by admitting to her crimes, with the closest she came to acknowledging her guilt being a scrawled message on a Post-it note which read: ‘I am evil, I did this.’ 

Her parents, Susan, 63, and John, 77, had attended every day of her trial but were not at her sentencing.

Speaking after visiting a nursery in North Yorkshire this morning, Mr Sunak said: ‘I think it’s cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear first hand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones.

‘We are looking at changing the law to make sure that that happens and that’s something that we’ll bring forward in due course.’

And current Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said she had taken ‘the coward’s approach’, adding: ‘Cases like these make me even more determined to make sure the worst offenders attend court to face justice, when ordered by the judge.

‘That’s why we are looking at options to change the law at the earliest opportunity to ensure that in the silence that follows the clang of the prison gate, society’s condemnation will be ringing in prisoners’ ears.’

Sir Keir Starmer said he shared the victims’ families anger as he urged the Government to change the law to compel criminals to attend.

The Labour leader told journalists: ‘What I don’t think should be allowed to happen is for the Government to say because there are practical considerations, which of course there are, we’ll do nothing about it.

‘Just think of those victims’ families today not seeing the defendant in the dock facing justice as she properly should. They are angry, they’re frustrated. I share that.

‘I saw for myself just how important it is. So from our position, we’re thinking not about party politics. We’re thinking about the victims, making an absolutely open offer to the Government, we’ll work with you, overcome the practical considerations, and let’s get this done, let’s get the law changed.’

Letby is the fourth woman to receive a whole life order after Myra Hindley, Rose West and triple killer Joanna Dennehy.

Issuing his sentencing remarks as if she was still in the room, Mr Justice Goss said Letby displayed a ‘morbid fascination’ with seriously ill children and inflicted ‘acute pain’ as they desperately fought for life.  

Letby’s parents, Susan, 63, and John, 77, had attended every day of her trial but were not at today’s sentencing. They are seen on August 17 

He told the court: ‘You acted in a way that was completely contrary to the normal human instincts of nurturing and caring for babies and in gross breach of the trust that all citizens place in those who work in the medical and caring professions. The babies you harmed were born prematurely and some were at risk of not surviving but in each case you deliberately harmed them, intending to kill them.’ 

The judge said Letby would be provided copies of his remarks and the personal statements of the families of her victims.

He said only Letby knew what had driven her to embark on a ‘cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder’, and noted she had ‘coldly denied any responsibility for your wrongdoing’. 

The judge said the nurse prided herself on her professionalism which enabled her to start harming children without suspicion, displaying ‘malevolence bordering on sadism’. He said she adopted tactics such as attacking babies when other staff were on their breaks before keeping medical documents as ‘morbid records’ of her attacks.  

The parents of Baby A, who was murdered by Letby in 2015, and his twin sister Baby B – who was attacked but survived – told of their pain in a victim impact statement read out to the court. They said: ‘We never got to hold our little boy while he was alive, because you took him away. What should have been the happiest time of our lives became our worst nightmare.’

The mother of Child C, who weighed just 1lb 12oz when he was murdered by Letby, described the ‘overwhelming emotion’ she felt the first time she held her son. She said: ‘It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. My tiny feisty boy, my firstborn, my son. The trauma of that night will live with us all until the day we die. Knowing now his murderer was watching us was like something out of a horror story.’

She said she blamed herself for his death and not protecting him, adding: ‘What if I had not gone to bed that night? Maybe he would still be here.’

The mother of Child D said Letby’s ‘wicked sense of entitlement’ had led her to claim lives ‘that were not yours to take’. 

The mother of Child E, who died, and Child F, who survived, said their world had ‘shattered when we discovered evil disguised as a caring nurse’.

Explaining how the babies had been conceived through IVF after a long fertility battle, she said: ‘Lucy was aware of our journey and deliberately caused significant harm and cruelty to our boys. Even in these final days of the trial she has tried to control things, the disrespect she has shown the families and the court show what type of person she is.’ She described Letby’s failure to appear in court as ‘the final act of wickedness from a coward’.

Child G, who Letby tried to murder while she weighed just 1lb after being conceived abroad through an expensive course of IVF, is now blind and must be fed through a tube. His father told the court: ‘Every day I would sit there and pray. I would pray for God to save her. He did. He saved her, but the devil found her.’ He said his daughter would ‘never have a sleepover with a best friend or go to high school and graduate. She will never have a first kiss, a boyfriend, or get married.’

The parents of Child I told the court that ‘a part of us died’ with the loss of their daughter. They described how – before Letby struck – she was a ‘very content little girl’ who was ‘like a full-term baby, who often smiled and never cried’. But after the attack, ‘she was swollen and seemed to be in a lot of pain, with eyes that looked very sad’. They had told she might be home for Christmas on the night she passed away.

None of the parents had any idea their children had been the victims of foul play until they were visited by police up to three years later. But today, the mother of Child N, who Letby tried to murder, said she always knew her son had been deliberately harmed.

The mother of Child O and Child P – two brothers in a set of triples – said she continued to be haunted by ‘vivid images’ from the time and lived in ‘constant fear’ of anything else happening to her surviving children. Their third son only survived after his parents begged medics at a nearby hospital to take him in. 

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