The government has confirmed the appointment of Court of Appeal judge Lady Justice Thirlwall to lead the statutory inquiry into the case of former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.
As one of the country’s most senior judges, Lady Justice Thirlwall will chair the inquiry which is set to examine the ‘wider circumstances’ of the murders and attempted murders of several babies by Letby.
Last month Letby was handed a full life sentence for her crimes at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
While making a statement in parliament on Monday, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said the government had ‘a duty’ to get families ‘the answers they deserve, to hold people to account and to make sure lessons are learned’.
Mr Barclay said the inquiry would ‘examine the case’s wider circumstances, including the trust’s response to clinicians who raised the alarm, and the conduct of the wider NHS and its regulators’.
He noted that he had raised with lady Justice Thirlwall that the families ‘should work with her to shape the terms of reference’ of the inquiry and that he hoped these would be finalised ‘in the next couple of weeks, so the inquiry can start the consultation as soon as possible’.
‘I have also discussed with Lady Justice Thirlwall the families’ desire for the inquiry to take place in phases, so it provides answers to vital questions as soon as possible,’ added Mr Barclay.
Lady Justice Thirlwall, who is currently sitting in the Court of Appeal, has many years of experience as a senior judge and as a senior barrister prior to that.
Tamlin Bolton, solicitor at Switalskis Solicitors, who currently represents the families of seven of Letby’s victims said: ‘It is fair to say that the horrific crimes committed by Letby have led to many more questions requiring vital answers so that the families involved can begin to process the events that have taken place.
‘Given what is in the public domain so far around the circumstances of Letby’s crimes, it is imperative that the families affected are heard if they are to have the highest confidence in the process.
‘That’s why we are delighted that the families will be working with Lady Justice Thirlwall to help shape the terms of reference of the inquiry, which will specifically consider the trust’s response to the clinicians who raised the alarm about Letby.’
She added: ‘We can only hope that this statutory public inquiry will result in robust systems being implemented to ensure nothing like this can happen again and to restore any kind of trust in the NHS.’