Lucy Letby: Victims' lawyer explains what's next as families prepare to sue

What's next in the Lucy Letby case? Video report from Sangita Lal and words from Lewis Denison

The families of some of Lucy Letby's victims are now planning to sue the NHS hospital where their babies were murdered, their lawyer has told ITV News.

The 33-year-old former nurse was sentenced to life in prison for murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others but a number of alleged victims did not get justice and parents want answers.

Tamlin Bolton, a solicitor for law firm Switalskis, which is representing the families of seven of Letby’s victims, told ITV News the next steps toward getting "some kind of closure" for the families.

Suing the hospital in a civil case

Ms Bolton told ITV News the next steps for the families of victims is a "civil case against the trust itself" which will examine how much was known by the hospital and what could have been done to stop Letby sooner.

She said the "only mechanism that there really is from a civil perspective is an award of compensation and that's a monetary value to reflect the loss and the harm here but realistically what comes with that process is answers".

Solicitor Tamlin Bolton, who's been representing parents of several of Letby's victims, told ITV News about their next steps. Credit: ITV News

Concerns had been raised about Letby by her colleagues who told bosses at the Countess of Chester Hospital about worries she was harming babies, but she was allowed to continue her actions for months.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Ravi Jayaram was among a number of her colleagues who raised concerns about Letby, but he was told to personally apologise to Letby for his accusations.

Ms Bolton said a civil case will look at "what they knew and when they should have known it".

"That means considering what was known by senior management, what was being reported by the doctors and nurses in paediatric unit and what should have been taken by the trust to investigates those complaints sooner."

She added: "I don't think its the case that we could say every death would have been prevented or every harm could have been prevented. We want to look at where there were failings and what could have been done to prevent those."

Ms Bolton said the criminal case against Letby left many "unanswered questions", especially for the families of the several alleged victims where the jury could not reach a verdict.

Possibility of a retrial? And what about the 4,000 other potential victims?

Letby was accused of harming 17 babies, but the jury was unable reach a verdict on four of the charges against her and not guilty of two.

Ms Bolton told ITV News the Crown Prosecution Service is "looking again at what they can do for a retrial" for the charges where no verdict was reached.

But Cheshire Police is now conducting a review into the care of 4,000 babies who could have been harmed under her care after expanding their Operation Hummingbird investigation.

The review includes cases at the Countess of Chester Hospital from January 2012 to the end of June 2016, and will also include her time at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in 2012 and 2015.

In the video, Letby is seen being escorted from her home in Chester and into a car. Credit: Police bodycam

“This does not mean we are investigating all 4,000,” said senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Paul Hughes.

“It just means that we are committed to a thorough review of every admission from a medical perspective, to ensure that nothing is missed throughout the entirety of her employment as a nurse.”

He added: “We would be foolish if we were to think we have gathered all cases that Lucy Letby could have touched in one go. We are proud of our investigation but we are not that good to say we have got everything in one go.

“So we are committed to doing an overarching investigation looking at every single baby’s admission into neonatal unit for the entire footprint that Lucy Letby has been employed."

Ms Bolton said the parents of any child care for at those facilities under that timeframe "are going to have an awful lot of questions".

Could there be a corporate manslaughter charge, and should NHS executives be held to account?

It is not unusual for hospitals to be charged with corporate manslaughter, Ms Bolton told ITV News.

She pointed to a case in Nottingham where an NHS trust was fined £800,000 for a "catalogue of failings and errors" that led to the death of a baby 23 minutes after she was born.

Wynter Andrews died on September 15, 2019, due to a lack of oxygen to the brain shortly after an emergency caesarean section at the Queen's Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham.

"So it's not unusual to happen and it is a possibility," Ms Bolton said, "and I think from the inquiry there are concerns raised that the right authorities will hopefully take that further".

The size of any potential fine for the Countess of Chester Hospital is unlimited in theory.

But there have been calls for the NHS managers who were told about concerns relating to Letby to be investigated for gross negligence manslaughter.

Dr Dewi Evans, a consultant paediatrician who gave evidence at the trial, said he would be asking Cheshire Police to investigate claims concerning the hospital management’s “grossly irresponsible” failure to act.

He told the Observer: “They were grossly negligent. I shall write to Cheshire police and ask them, from what I have heard following the end of the trial, that I believe that we should now investigate a number of managerial people in relation to issues of corporate manslaughter."

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, asked by ITV News whether there should be a new regulatory body for NHS managers, or whether those involved should resign, said they are questions which "should be very much at the heart of the inquiry".

"That's why it is important and why [Health Secretary] Steve Barclay straight away said it would be very important to have an inquiry to really look into some of the lessons learnt for everybody."

Doctor who helped stop Letby explains his frustrating whistle-blowing experience

Calls for inquiry to be bolstered

Pressure is building on ministers for them to increase the powers of the inquiry looking into failings around the Letby case so it is led by a judge who can compel witnesses to give evidence.

Appointed after Letby was arrested, Dr Susan Gilby, the former chief executive of the Countess of Chester Hospital, said when she arrived at the unit she was shocked at how reluctant hospital bosses were to suspect Letby.

"I do feel that there needs to be an independent, public inquiry, and it needs to be statutory," Dr Gilby told ITV News.

"So that we have the optimum opportunity to call everybody who the authorities feel would be a useful witness and also to compel people to give evidence under oath.

"(Otherwise) individuals who may be asked to give evidence can opt out if it's not a statutory inquiry. I think people will regard it with a little more gravitas if they are giving evidence on oath."

Ms Bolton said the inquiry in its current state is "certainly not" powerful enough to find all the answers families want.

Rishi Sunak answered reporters’ questions after Letby was sentenced. Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak had originally defended his move to announce a non-statutory inquiry but it now seems likely to probe will soon be put on a statutory footing.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told ITV News ministers are considering bolstering the inquiry but she said Mr Sunak wants to hear from victim's families on whether to upgrade it before deciding.

A former colleague of Letby, a doctor instrumental in bringing her killing spree to an end, told ITV News there needs to be a full public inquiry, and has called for senior NHS executives to be held to account for failings.

Dr Ravi Jayaram, a consultant pediatrician at the Countess of Chester Hospital, repeatedly raised concerns about his former colleague, said: "The fact that it is a non-statutory inquiry just makes me angry more than anything else."

"Why should it not be a non-statutory inquiry? There have been other inquiries into NHS scandals which have been statutory full public inquiries. Why on earth would this be announced as a non-statutory inquiry?

"We have to look really at what we want to get out of an inquiry. Yes, for resolution for the parents, the quicker the better, but is the priority speed?

"I would much rather have an inquiry that asked the right questions and took as much time as it needed to get the right answers."

Sunak told to speed up with law forcing offenders to attend sentencing hearings

Letby was the latest in a string of murderers who refused to attend their sentencing hearing, meaning they were able to avoid listening to impact statements read by the families of their victims.

Rishi Sunak committed to a new law compelling them to attending court for sentencing after the murderer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt Korbel missed his but that was months ago and still no change has been made.

He's reaffirmed that pledge following the Letby case and his justice secretary has vowed to change the law at the “earliest opportunity”.

Alex Chalk said: “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.”

Mr Chalk added: “Cases like these make me even more determined to make sure the worst offenders attend court to face justice, when ordered by the judge.

“That’s why we are looking at options to change the law at the earliest opportunity to ensure that in the silence that follows the clang of the prison gate, society’s condemnation will be ringing in prisoners’ ears.”

The earliest opportunity would be autumn, after MPs return from their summer recess in early September.

Lawyer Ms Bolton said Letby's refusal to appear in the dock for her sentencing was the "final insult" for the families.

“By not facing the consequences of her actions, it speaks of her complete disregard not only for the damage she’s caused, but also to our judicial system."

Her words were echoed by the mother of Cheryl Korbel, the mother of young Olivia Pratt Kobel, who said listening to victim impact statements is the first step toward rehabilitating people.

“It’s important for the families. Writing the impact statement was really hard. It wasn’t going to take minutes. It was days, over a matter of weeks.

“It’s important for the offenders to listen to the pain that they’ve caused, the pain that is ongoing. Going to prison is supposed to be a rehabilitation.

“That first port of call of rehabilitation should be in that courtroom and standing there listening to the judge and listening to the families’ impact statements."

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