Letby inquiry gets power to compel witnesses to give evidence
Powers of inquiry into crimes by neonatal nurse are increased after affected families meet health secretary
The inquiry into crimes committed by Lucy Letby will become statutory, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay has announced.
The change gives the inquiry legal power to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, including current and former staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital, where Letby worked as a neonatal nurse.
Previously the Department of Health and Social Care had said an independent inquiry would be most suitable, but Mr Barclay said the change was decided after discussions with the families of the victims on 29 August.
He said: ‘The crimes committed by Lucy Letby are truly harrowing, and my thoughts remain with the families of her victims.
Inquiry will investigate wider circumstances, including how concerns raised by clinicians were handled
‘Following her conviction, we announced an inquiry and said the nature of this inquiry would be shaped by the families. Having now discussed this with the families, we will launch a full statutory inquiry giving it the legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence.
‘This statutory public inquiry will aim to give the families the answers they need and ensure lessons are learned.’
Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others at Manchester Crown Court earlier this month and sentenced to life in prison.
The upcoming inquiry will investigate the wider circumstances around what happened at the hospital, including how concerns raised by clinicians were handled. It will also look at what actions were taken by regulators and the wider NHS.
Without extra powers the inquiry would have been ineffectual, say lawyers for families
The specific scope of the inquiry’s investigation will be outlined in the forthcoming publication of its terms of reference.
The government said it will look to appoint a judge to chair the inquiry and is working to identify a suitable candidate as soon as possible.
Lawyers from solicitors Slater and Gordon, representing families of some of the babies attacked by Letby, have welcomed the announcement, insisting that ‘without these powers, the inquiry would have been ineffectual’.
Senior associate Tamlin Bolton at solicitors Switalskis, also representing some of the families, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I don’t think that anyone is going to suggest that the NHS wouldn’t have complied with an independent inquiry.
‘But if you are going to put the families through this process again you’ve got to be sure that you reach conclusions at the end of that process that answer all the key questions.
‘And because in a statutory inquiry you have to give evidence under oath it does convey a further obligation on them to be forthcoming and honest about the evidence they’re giving.’More on the Letby case
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