Government wants to change law after ‘coward’ Lucy Letby refuses to attend sentencing

Law and Justice Policy & Politics

The government is looking to change the law and compel offenders to attend sentencing hearings after former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby was given a whole-life term for murdering seven babies.

Letby – the most prolific child killer in modern British history – refused to attend court to hear relatives of the murdered newborn babies read impact statements. “One final act of wickedness from a coward,” said one mother.

Letby was sentenced at Manchester crown court today (August 21) for murdering seven babies and the attempted murder of six more babies at the Countess of Chester hospital.

At today’s sentencing Mr Justice Goss described Letby’s actions as a “cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children”.

The 33-year-old showed “premeditation, calculation and cunning” and a “deep malevolence bordering on sadism,” said the judge, addressing the absent Letby directly: “You killed seven fragile babies and attempted to kill six others. Some of your victims were only a day or a few days old. All were extremely vulnerable.”

Sir Keir Starmer is urging the government to introduce a law change to compel criminals to attend sentencing,  saying he shares the anger of the victims’ families about Letby’s absence from the dock for her sentencing.

The Labour leader said his party will is “thinking about the victims” and “making an absolutely open offer to the government” to support the law change required to compel offenders

Writing on social media, justice secretary Alex Chalk posted: “Lucy Letby is not just a murderer but a coward, whose failure to face her victims’ families – refusing to hear their impact statements and society’s condemnation – is the final insult.

“We are looking to change the law so offenders can be compelled to attend sentencing hearings.”

Starmer said the government cannot say “there are practical considerations” preventing a change in the law, adding: “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.”

Rishi Sunak said he wants the inquiry into Letby’s murder of seven babies to be carried out “as quickly as possible”. However, the prime minister has so far refused to calls from the victims’ families, MPs and campaigners for the inquiry to be given full legal powers to compel witnesses to appear.

At present, it will be a non-statutory independent inquiry which does not have such powers.

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