Lucy Letby’s sickening crimes ‘WILL be investigated by judge-led inquiry’: Health Secretary Steve Barclay asks for list of senior justices to lead official probe
- Rishi Sunak signalled plans to beef up probe into the convicted neonatal nurse
- Decision to upgrade the inquiry will be made after consulting families of victims
Lucy Letby’s ‘despicable’ crimes will be investigated by a judge- led inquiry, the Prime Minister has indicated.
Rishi Sunak signalled plans to beef up the probe into Britain’s most prolific child killer of modern times, having previously resisted pressure to give it a statutory footing.
The neonatal nurse was convicted last week of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six more at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The Daily Mail understands Health Secretary Steve Barclay has asked the Ministry of Justice for a list of appropriate senior judges available to lead the inquiry.
But the initial shortlist supplied by the department was deemed by Mr Barclay to be too limited and he has asked mandarins to add more names.
Letby, 33, was given a whole-life sentence on Monday, meaning she will never be released from prison
Mr Sunak said yesterday: ‘Obviously this was one of the most despicable, horrific crimes in our history. It’s really important that we get answers, particularly for the families of the victims, and of course my thoughts are with them.
‘The Health Secretary is taking that work forward, speaking to them to make sure we understand what they need and want and how best we can address that.
‘Now, whatever form the inquiry takes, I believe it is important that it is judge-led so that it has a strong independent voice to get to the bottom of what happened.’
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens and former home secretary Jack Straw are among those calling for an inquiry into Letby’s crimes to be given a statutory footing.
It is believed any decision to upgrade the inquiry will be made after discussion with the families of Letby’s victims, several of whom are taking a break following the conclusion of the ten-month trial at Manchester Crown Court last Friday.
Letby, 33, was given a whole-life sentence on Monday, meaning she will never be released from prison.
A non-statutory inquiry can often be concluded more swiftly but lacks the powers to force the disclosure of evidence and cannot compel a witness to attend.
However, it is a criminal offence to fail to give evidence at a statutory inquiry – such as the Covid-19 and Grenfell probes – when asked to do so.
The neonatal nurse was convicted last week of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six more at the Countess of Chester Hospital
A non-statutory inquiry means families would not be able to apply for core participant status, which gives them the right to contribute to the probe and appoint counsel to act on their behalf.
The Department of Health and Social Care has sponsored a number of probes including the judge-led statutory inquiry into the infected blood scandal.
Some inquiries, such as the investigations into child sexual abuse and the Post Office computer software scandal, began on a non-statutory footing before being upgraded.
Many statutory inquiries are also judge-led and having a judge chair a Letby inquiry means it is more likely that person can continue in post if the probe is upgraded.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to rule out the potential for the inquiry to be made statutory.
Lucy Letby’s ‘despicable’ crimes will be investigated by a judge- led inquiry, the Prime Minister has indicated
He said: ‘The most important thing is to make sure families get the answers they need, that it’s possible to learn the lessons, that it’s done transparently and that it happens as quickly as possible. We will have an inquiry on the right footing to achieve that.’
Meanwhile, amid calls for NHS managers to be held accountable, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has called an urgent meeting for next week to look at setting up a new regulator, Sky News reported last night.
The Ministry of Justice declined to comment.
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