Nurse Lucy Letby Faces Possible Life in Prison for Killing U.K. Newborns

Nurse Lucy Letby Faces Possible Life in Prison for Killing U.K. Newborns

Lucy Letby, the British nurse convicted last week of killing seven newborns and trying to kill six others, was expected to be sentenced on Monday, in the culmination of a long-running case that horrified the country and has prompted national calls for accountability.

She could face a “whole life order,” meaning life without the possibility of parole — a sentence that is reserved for the country’s worst offenders and which is rarely imposed in Britain — for the murders and attempted killings between June 2015 and June 2016 at the Countess of Chester Hospital in the city of Chester in northwestern England.

If handed the whole life order, Ms. Letby, who was a nurse in the neonatal ward tasked with caring for premature and vulnerable babies, would be only the fourth woman in British history to be given such a sentence.

A November 2020 police photograph of Lucy Letby.Credit…Cheshire Constabulary

The guilty verdicts at Manchester Crown Court last week made Ms. Letby the most prolific serial killer of children in modern British history.

After the first guilty verdicts were announced last week, Ms. Letby told her legal team that she would refuse to attend any further court proceedings, and she did not leave her jail cell on Monday, prompting politicians to debate ways to force convicted criminals to listen to their sentencing.

The families of the babies read out a series of heart-wrenching victim impact statements in court on Monday, with their accounts expected to continue for several hours.

The mother of a baby boy who was killed addressed the absent Ms. Letby, saying, “There is no sentence that will ever compare to the excruciating agony that we have suffered as a consequence of your actions,” according to the BBC.

Her case has prompted national calls for an investigation into the circumstances that allowed Ms. Letby to continue working in the hospital after doctors raised concerns about her work, details that were revealed during her trial and in its immediate aftermath.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking on Monday morning, said that he had been shocked by the harrowing details of the case.

“I think it is cowardly that people that commit such horrendous crimes do not face their victims and hear firsthand the impact that their crimes have had on them and their families and loved ones,” he said, and added that the government was looking at changing the laws to compel criminals to be in court to hear such statements.

Over the course of the 10-month trial, which began in October, jurors heard that Ms. Letby had harmed babies by overfeeding them with milk, injecting them with air and insulin and inflicting “impact-type” trauma.

“In her hands, innocuous substances like air, milk, fluids — or medication like insulin — would become lethal,” Pascale Jones, who worked on the prosecution team for the case, said after the verdicts were delivered. “She perverted her learning and weaponized her craft to inflict harm, grief and death.”

Ms. Letby, 33, maintained her innocence throughout the trial, where she faced 22 counts related to the killing and harming of babies. In addition to the murder convictions, Ms. Letby was found guilty of seven counts of attempted murder related to six newborns, meaning she tried to kill one of them twice, prosecutors said.

The jury did not reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder, and Ms. Letby was found not guilty on two counts of attempted murder.

Medical records, text and social media messages, staffing schedules and handwritten notes and diaries were used to help convict Ms. Letby, prosecutors said.

The British health secretary, Steve Barclay, has ordered an independent inquiry into how Ms. Letby managed to evade detection for years, after the British news media reported that hospital managers ignored repeated warnings about her conduct.

Mr. Sunak also said that the inquiry would look into everything that had happened in this case to give answers that families need and to “ensure that we learn lessons from what happened.”