‘A final insult’: Lucy Letby’s refusal to appear in court sparks renewed calls for change to law

Lucy Letby’s refusal to attend her sentencing for the murder of seven babies has led to renewed calls for a law to force criminals to face justice in person.

The 33-year-old neonatal nurse, who was also convicted of the attempted murder of six newborns at Countess of Chester Hospital in 2015 and 2016, is not expected to appear in court for Monday’s hearing.

It comes after she chose to remain in her cell for several of the guilty verdicts.

They were delivered over a period of a number of days and she was only present for the first two.

Letby is the latest high-profile killer to refuse to attend court, with the gunman who murdered Liverpool schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel also skipping his sentencing earlier this year.

Sky News understands the government is looking at changing the law to force criminals to appear.

A Ministry of Justice source said: “It’s a final insult to victims and their families when criminals don’t stand up to what they’ve done in court.

“We’re committed to changing the law as soon as we can to ensure offenders face the consequences.”

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland suggested new legislation making its way through parliament, the Victims and Prisoners Bill, may be an “opportunity for the government to act”.

The proposed law could potentially be amended to force criminals to appear in court.

Read more:
How the police caught Letby
Inside the minds of healthcare serial killers

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Inside the Lucy Letby case

Calls for COVID-style inquiry ‘with teeth’

Mr Buckland also stressed the need for a full public inquiry into the Letby murders, one which – like the ongoing COVID inquiry – has the power to summon witnesses and receive documents.

He said while the killings themselves needed to be “understood”, so too did the response of authorities like the NHS.

Lawyers for the bereaved families have said a non-statutory public inquiry, as announced by the Department of Health, would be “inadequate”.

Yvonne Agnew, of law firm Slater and Gordon, told Sky News “there has to be teeth” to it.

“To take these families through everything again, they have to be clear the right questions will be asked to the right people and there will be nowhere to hide,” she said.

“There has to be the ability to make people answer these questions.”

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It comes as police announced a review into the care of 4,000 babies admitted to the Countess of Chester and Liverpool Women’s Hospital, where Letby had two work placements as far back as 2012.

The Chester hospital has come under scrutiny over when it called police and if more could have been done.

There were 13 deaths on the neonatal unit where she worked over a one-year period, five times the usual rate, and the nurse was on duty for all of them.

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