After Serial Killer of Babies Skips Hearing, UK May Change Law

'Cowardly' former neonatal nurse was not present during sentencing, victim impact statements
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2023 6:25 PM CDT
After Serial Killer of Babies Skips Hearing, UK May Change Law
This undated handout issued by Cheshire Constabulary shows Lucy Letby.   (Cheshire Constabulary via AP)

A British judge denounced former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby's "deep malevolence and sadism" Monday as he sentenced her to life in prison with no chance of parole for murdering seven babies and trying to kill six more. But Justice James Goss—and parents who delivered devastating victim impact statements—were speaking to an empty chair. Letby refused to attend the sentencing hearing, and authorities say they plan to change the law so offenders can be forced to attend such hearings, the BBC reports. The 33-year-old 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," tweeted Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

"We are looking to change the law so offenders can be compelled to attend sentencing hearings," Chalk said. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who also described Letby's behavior as "cowardly," confirmed that a change to the law is being considered. Letby, who murdered the infants in a yearlong rampage at the Countess of Chester hospital, was brought to the Manchester court from her prison cell but remained in a cell beneath the building as parents delivered testimony that left jurors, journalists, and police officers in tears, the Guardian reports. They spoke of how their lives had been destroyed by the death of their infants—and of their horror at learning a nurse was responsible.

Letby's victims included two boys from a set of identical triplets. Their parents told the court that the surviving boy, now 7 years old, still asks about what happened to his brothers. The mother of a premature girl Letby injected with air the day after she was born held a toy rabbit as she told the court about how she had buried her daughter the day before her due date. "My arms, my heart, my life all felt so painfully empty," she said, per the Guardian. "I was desperate to feel her, smell her, cuddle her."

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Some survivors of Letby's attacks now need round-the-clock care. One father described Letby as "the devil" as he described how he had tried to kill his daughter twice, the AP reports. The girl survived, but she is blind, has brain damage, and needs to be fed through a tube. Letby is the fourth woman in the UK to receive what's known in Britain as a "whole life tariff." At Monday's sentencing hearing, her lawyer said that since she maintains she is innocent, there was nothing he could "add in mitigation that was capable of reducing the sentence." (More United Kingdom stories.)

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