Lucy Letby to be sent victim impact statements after refusing to appear in court

The judge ordered the 33-year-old be sent a transcript of his sentencing remarks and copies of the statements read out by the families of her victims.

Lucy Letby will be sent copies of the victim impact statements read out during her sentencing after refusing to appear in court.

The 33-year-old did not appear in the dock at Manchester Crown Court on Monday as she was given a whole-life order after being convicted of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six more.

The judge, Mr Justice Goss, ordered that Letby be sent a transcript of his sentencing remarks and copies of the statements read out by the families of her victims.

He said: “The defendant, Lucy Letby, has refused to attend court for this sentence hearing. Accordingly, I have to sentence her in her absence.

“I shall deliver the sentencing remarks as if she was present to hear them. And I direct that she is provided with a transcript of my remarks and copies of the victim personal statements read to the court.”

In a victim impact statement, the mother of twin boys Child E and Child F, who Letby was convicted of murdering and attempting to murder respectively, said Letby’s absence was “one final act of wickedness”.

She told the court: “Even in these final days of the trial she has tried to control things, the disrespect she has shown the families and the court show what type of person she is.

“We have attended court day in and day out, yet she decides she has had enough and stays in her cell – just one final act of wickedness from a coward.”

Rishi Sunak branded the serial child murderer “cowardly” for refusing to appear for her sentencing hearing.

The Prime Minister said the Government was looking at changing the law so criminals were compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.

Lucy Letby
Lucy Letby refused to attend her sentencing hearing at Manchester Crown Court (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

He was asked during a visit to a nursery in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on Monday whether ministers were moving too slowly on making the change.

Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “The first thing is to extend my sympathies to everyone affected by this.

“I think, like everyone reading about this, it’s just shocking and harrowing.

“Now, I think it’s cowardly that people who commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear first-hand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones.

“We are looking, and have been, at changing the law to make sure that that happens and that’s something that we’ll bring forward in due course.”

Letby joins a string of offenders in recent years who have refused to attend court as their punishment is handed down.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded Lucy Letby ‘cowardly’ (Euan Duff/PA)

Judges can order defendants to come to court prior to verdicts being delivered. If they fail to obey, they can be found in contempt of court and face up to two years in prison – but the law does not cover sentencing hearings.

Earlier this year, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the Government was “committed” to changing the law so criminals were compelled to attend their sentencing hearings – following the non-attendance of the killers of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Zara Aleena and Sabina Nessa.

On Monday, he said the Government was looking to change the law “at the earliest opportunity”.

He added: “Nothing could begin to undo the damage that Lucy Letby has done. Justice has been served, but it was an insult to the families of her victims that Letby failed to appear in the dock to hear her sentence handed down. She took the coward’s approach, insulting her victims one last time by robbing their families of the chance to look her in the eye as the judge decided her fate.

“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.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of ‘dragging its heels’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

The PA news agency understands plans for law changes to force criminals to face their sentencing hearing could be put forward as early as the autumn, as soon as parliamentary time allows.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of “dragging its heels” over changing the law to compel criminals to attend their sentencing hearings.

He added: “I hope the Government will do it because I think it can be done very quickly.

“If they don’t, we will force an amendment to appropriate legislation. But actually, my position is to invite the Government to get on with it, to offer Labour’s support so this could go through very, very quickly.

“This isn’t the first case. The Government has been dragging its heels on this. Get on with it for the sake of these victims, and of course, the other cases that went before it.”

Jebina Islam, sister of Ms Nessa who has been campaigning on this issue after her own family’s experience, said: “It’s amazing that this is actually happening. The thought of these predators choosing to come to court was truly outrageous and unfair for the victim and their families and now we have put a stop to this.

“I am over the moon that this change is happening and thank everyone for their support and love.”

Ayse Hussein, cousin of Jan Mustafa who was murdered in east London and who has also campaigned on this issue, added: “In our case it was a double murder and knowing that the perpetrator was allowed to sit comfortably in his cell while the judge read out the impact statements was a stab in the back.

“The perpetrator should be in the dock facing the family and listening to what he has put us through and to see the pain and tears because he has caused this by killing our loved ones, but because of the law he doesn’t have to see or hear anything.

“This is wrong and has to change. Perpetrators have so many rights and privileges over families, we suffer and have to listen in court, they don’t.”

London’s Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman, said perpetrators of crime must be made to face their sentencing in court and hear the impact of their crimes, or face consequences if they refuse.

She added: “I have had numerous meetings with many justice partners on this issue and have suggested a number of proposals to Government, and whilst we welcome the commitment to make the necessary changes, we need the Government to follow through swiftly to ensure that victims and their loved ones can feel that justice has been delivered and start their journey towards some sense of closure.”

Mr Sunak also defended the non-statutory inquiry announced by the Government into Letby’s crimes amid calls for it to be put on a statutory footing led by a judge.

Asked whether it should be upgraded to a judge-led inquiry, with the power to compel witnesses to appear before it, the Prime Minister said: “I think the important thing for the inquiry to do is make sure that families get the answers that they need, that it is possible for us to learn the lessons from what happened, everything conducted transparently, and to happen as quickly as possible.

“Those are the objectives that we want for the inquiry and we’ll make sure that it’s set up to deliver on those aims.”

Court artist drawing of nurse Lucy Letby.
The judge told the court he would deliver his sentencing remarks as if Letby was present to hear them (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Children’s minister Claire Coutinho earlier argued that the independent inquiry launched after Letby’s convictions on Friday would be “much quicker”.

But Dame Christine Beasley, a former chief nursing officer, warned that witnesses “can opt out of it if they want to” as she joined a growing list of figures pushing for the investigation to be strengthened.

Steve Brine, the Conservative chairman of the Health Select Committee, warned on Sunday that some key witnesses may not be willing to co-operate with the independent inquiry, which he said could drag on for years and “disappear down a rabbit hole”.

Downing Street later suggested the inquiry could be put on a statutory footing but could not say when terms of reference would be published.

Asked by reporters if the Government had ruled out holding a statutory inquiry, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No, I think as you heard the Prime Minister say this morning, we are focused on the outcomes, the most important thing is to make sure families get the answers they need and that it’s possible to learn the lessons, that it’s done transparently and that it happens as quickly as possible.

“And that’s crucial. And obviously, we will have an inquiry on the right footing to achieve that.”

Pressed again on whether it could be a statutory inquiry, he said: “As I say, we will put it on the right footing to achieve those outcomes.”

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