Senior Judge Appointed to Head Investigation into Hospital Serial Killer Case Involving Lucy Letby

Senior Judge © PA Media
Senior judge © PA Media
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The Health Secretary has announced that one of the most senior judges in the country will head the investigation into the crimes committed by serial killer nurse Lucy Letby.

Steve Barclay told MPs Lady Justice Thirlwall has “many years of experience” as a senior judge and senior barrister.

The investigation will possess legal authority to mandate testimonies from witnesses, both past and present employees of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the institution where Lucy Letby was employed and carried out her crimes.

Last month, Lucy Letby, aged 33, received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of seven infants and attempted murder of six others.

Making a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Barclay said: “This inquiry will examine the case’s wider circumstances, including the (hospital) trust’s response to clinicians who raised the alarm and the conduct of the wider NHS and its regulators.

“I can confirm to the House that Lady Justice Thirlwall will lead this inquiry.

“She is one of the country’s most senior judges, currently sitting in the Court of Appeal and with many years of experience as a senior judge and a senior barrister before that.”

He added: “I have raised with Lady Justice Thirlwall that the families should work with her to shape the terms of reference.

“We hope to finalise these in the next couple of weeks so the inquiry can start the consultation as soon as possible.

“I have also discussed with Lady Justice Thirlwall the families’ desire for the inquiry to take place in phases so it provides answers to vital questions as soon as possible.”

Mr Barclay later told MPs: “The crimes of Lucy Letby were some of the very worst the United Kingdom has witnessed.

“I know that nothing can come close to righting the wrongs of the past, but I hope Lady Justice Thirlwall’s inquiry will go at least some way to giving the victims’ families the answers they deserve.”

Mr. Barclay stated that there will be a revaluation of the calls to remove senior managers from their positions due to severe misconduct.

He said such a recommendation in the 2019 Kark review had been previously looked at by the NHS but it was decided introducing wider changes called for by the same review “mitigated the need to accept this specific recommendation on disbarring”.

Ensuring that the impacted families are given a platform to voice their concerns is essential if they are to have the utmost confidence in the proceedings.

Tamlin Bolton, from Switalskis Solicitors

Mr Barclay told MPs: “In light of the evidence from Chester and ongoing variation in performance across trusts, I have asked NHS England to work with my department to revisit this.

“They will do so alongside the actions recommended by General Sir Gordon Messenger’s review of leadership, on which the Government has already accepted all seven recommendations from the report dated June last year.

“This will ensure the right standards, support and training are in place for the public to have confidence that NHS boards have the skills and experience needed to provide safe, quality care.”

The hospital experienced a significant surge in the number of infants suffering from severe and unexpected health crises in 2015 and 2016. The presence of Lucy Letby during these incidents was initially brought to the attention of senior management by the head consultant of the unit in late June 2015.

As further unexplained and unusual health crises occurred, concerns among some consultants grew and were communicated to hospital leadership, as revealed during her trial at Manchester Crown Court. However, it was not until after the tragic deaths of two sets of triplet boys and the collapse of another baby boy over three consecutive days in June 2016 that Letby was finally removed from the unit.

Subsequently, she was assigned to clerical duties, but she initiated a grievance procedure, which ultimately resolved in her favour. Plans for her return to the unit in March 2017 were underway but were halted shortly after the hospital trust contacted the police.

Tamlin Bolton, a solicitor for law firm Switalskis, which is representing the families of seven of Letby’s victims, said in a statement: “Given what is in the public domain so far around the circumstances of Letby’s crimes, it is imperative that the families affected are heard if they are to have the highest confidence in the process.

“That’s why we are delighted that the families will be working with Lady Justice Thirlwall to help shape the terms of reference of the inquiry, which will specifically consider the trust’s response to the clinicians who raised the alarm about Letby.

“We hope that the trust demonstrates honesty and co-operation during the process and, ultimately, takes accountability for what has happened.”


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