Lucy Letby: Senior judge to preside over ‘inquiry’ of serial murders’ case at hospital

The inquiry into the crimes of serial killer nurse Lucy Letby will be led by one of the country’s most senior judges, Lady Justice Thirlwall, according to Health Secretary Steve Barclay.

Lady Justice Thirlwall, with extensive experience as a senior judge and senior barrister, will head the inquiry, which will possess legal powers to compel witnesses, including current and former staff of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where Letby committed her crimes. Letby was recently sentenced to a whole-life term for murdering seven infants and attempting to murder six others.

Steve Barclay informed the House of Commons that the inquiry would investigate the broader circumstances of the case, including the hospital trust’s response to clinicians who raised concerns and the conduct of the wider NHS and its regulators. He noted that Lady Justice Thirlwall would collaborate with the victims’ families to shape the terms of reference, with the hope of finalizing them in the coming weeks. The inquiry is expected to proceed in phases to provide answers to critical questions as quickly as possible.

Barclay acknowledged the heinous nature of Letby’s crimes and emphasized that while nothing can fully right the wrongs of the past, he hopes the inquiry will offer some answers to the victims’ families. He also mentioned the reconsideration of calls to disbar senior managers for serious misconduct and the need for the NHS to revisit this issue in light of evidence from Chester and ongoing variations in performance across trusts.

The hospital witnessed a significant increase in the number of infants experiencing serious and unexpected collapses in 2015 and 2016. Concerns about Letby’s presence during these incidents were raised with senior management, but she was not removed from the unit until after further incidents in 2016, including the deaths of two triplet boys and the collapse of another baby boy. The families affected by Letby’s actions will be actively involved in shaping the inquiry’s terms of reference to ensure transparency and accountability in the process.

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