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Lucy Letby: Does Public Inquiry Answer Families’ Questions?

Lucy Letbyimage source, Cheshire Police
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Lucy Letby was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of another six

Shortly after being found guilty on August 18, the government announced an independent inquiry into how neonatal nurse Lucy Letby murdered seven babies at the Countess of Chester’s hospital.

Her conviction made her the most prolific child serial killer in modern British history. The 33-year-old refused to appear in court for the conviction, where she faced a life sentence for each offence.

However, there are many unanswered questions surrounding the case, including what type of investigation should be conducted.

According to the library of the House of Commons, Investigations are usually initiated “when serious accidents or disasters occur, or when a serious error occurs within the government or a public institution”.

They serve to “determine facts”. [and] learn lessons to prevent mistakes from repeating themselves” and “restore public trust and establish accountability”.

There is much debate as to whether the presiding judge should have the legal power to compel witnesses to be present and testify.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We will ensure that the legal framework for doing this enjoys the full confidence of the families concerned and I will work with them – be it legal or non-legal – to ensure that this is the case.” dealing with issues such as whistleblowing and other actions related to this case will be fully investigated.”

But how are requests for those who take center stage?

Bishop James Jones

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Bishop James Jones’ report prompted new research

Former Bishop of Liverpool James Jones spent three years chairing an independent panel that re-investigated the deaths of 96 football fans in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Be Report, The inquiry, released in September 2012, led to a new investigation which, almost four years later, concluded that the Liverpool fans had been unlawfully killed in the group’s march.

The 97th victim of the disaster, Andrew Devine, died in 2021.

From 2014 Bishop Jones chaired the Gosport Independent Panel which examined concerns about deaths between 1989 and 2000 at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire.

The panel’s 2018 report found that more than 450 patients died after being given inappropriate strong painkillers.

What were your hopes before the investigation?

“What we did before the Hillsborough Inquiry was meet them [victims’] families and brought them together to figure out which questions they wanted answered, rather than the questions the authorities felt were important.

Were your hopes fulfilled?

“I felt it was important that we met the families regularly, so we met every three months to update them on our activities.”

“It was very therapeutic for her to meet other families — to share their stories, their pain and their experiences.”

“People talk about ‘closure,’ but that’s wrong,” he said.

“It rolls off the tongue very easily, but how can you talk about closure when you’re talking about the loss of someone you love dearly?”

“I hope we’ve given the families at both Hillsborough and Gosport their answers, but it’s also a bittersweet experience – you’re reliving your trauma and reflecting on your pain again.”

What advice do you have for families who want to participate in an investigation?

“Make sure you understand the difference between a legal investigation and other investigations.

“In the statutory investigation, the judge or other person appointed by the government decides the parameters.

“You have to push to be at the center of the process – families can easily be marginalized or forgotten and also feel marginalized and forgotten.”

“Your need for answers must come first – I addressed that in a recent post before the… Covid request.

Figen Murray

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Figen Murray has championed Martyn’s law, which would tighten security at venues

Figen Murray lost her beloved son, 29-year-old Martyn Hett, in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

He was one of 22 people killed when a suicide bomber detonated his device at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

She has championed the Martyn Act, a law that would oblige authorities to increase security in public places and develop proactive action plans against future terrorist attacks.

The third and final Manchester Arena Inquiry report, released in March, found that MI5 had missed a “significant” opportunity to take action that could have prevented the atrocity.

What were your hopes before the investigation?

“I had a lot of questions: What happened to my son? What did he do? How was he? What happened? As a parent, I needed to know that.”

Were your hopes fulfilled?

“I got more than enough answers to satisfy me. Some of them I didn’t like, of course, and they were very painful.”

“All my questions were answered, but having a great legal team helped.”

What advice do you have for families who want to participate in an investigation?

“If I had had more time, I would not have gone to the exam myself,” she said.

“It was really tough, very traumatic and I felt traumatized again by the experience.

“It’s been tough on my mental and physical health — it’s been a very trying time.”

“As you attend and participate in the process, it is important to take care of yourself.

“My husband and I made a plan that once we got on the train home after the daily hearing, we wouldn’t discuss the investigation any further.”

Margaret Aspinall

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Margaret Aspinall’s 18-year-old son, James, was killed in the disaster

The chair of the Hillsborough Families Support Group lost her 18-year-old son James in the 1989 stadium disaster.

She spent many years campaigning to have the findings of the original inquiry overturned, which failed to investigate the emergency response to the crowds at Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium terrace.

This was an extremely controversial decision, hotly disputed by the families of those who died.

In April 2016, new investigations concluded the fans had been unlawfully killed.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “official confirmation” that Liverpool fans were “completely innocent” of what had happened.

What were your hopes before the investigation?

“My hope was that because there had been cover-up after cover-up, we would learn the truth. We wanted to know what really happened.”

Were your hopes fulfilled?

“In many ways, our questions have been answered,” she said.

“We didn’t get everything we hoped for, but exoneration was given to those who died.

“What really bugs me is the time it took to get answers and the cost when that information was there from day one.”

What advice do you have for families who want to participate in an investigation?

“Get involved – make sure you’re engaged.

“The authorities won’t tell you anything unless you insist.”

“You have to fight to make sure everything doesn’t happen behind closed doors – I’m sure the people from Grenfell and the investigators at Manchester Arena felt that too.”

“It’s important that you are there and fighting for what you want to know.”

Deb Hazeldine

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Deb Hazeldine was one of 250 witnesses who testified at the Stafford Hospital inquest

Deb Hazeldine became involved in patient safety after her mother, Ellen Linstead, died at Stafford Hospital in 2006.

She was one of 250 Witnesses who gave testimony during the investigation, chaired by Sir Robert Francis, who reported on failures “from the top to the bottom of the NHS”.

In his 2013 report, he said it was “a story of the appalling and needless suffering of hundreds of people.”

What were your hopes before the investigation?

“That it would give my late mother a voice that she no longer had but desperately needed.”

“All requests are about families — it’s about the support they need,” she said.

“I needed answers to my questions, and I don’t think we would have had peace until we had them.”

Have your hopes been met?

“The only way to answer our questions would have been through a public inquiry.

“I’ve been asking questions since 2006, but it wasn’t until seven years later that we realized there had been a system glitch.

“The participants were able to find out what had happened.

“We didn’t get any responsibility, but we got the answers.

“Knowing that people like whistleblowers were speaking up gave me confidence.

“The families will have to live with what is happening for the rest of their lives.”

“When people put reports back on the shelf, something precious will always be missing from our lives.”

What advice do you have for families who want to participate in an investigation?

“Be kind to yourself, never apologize for your emotions — it’s been 16 years since my mother passed and there are days when I just have to stop what I’m doing.”

BBC Action Line

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