Published: 21st August 2023

Felicity Gerry KC was interviewed on Sky News today about the absence of Lucy Letby in Court.

Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering children in her care as a neonatal nurse. She was said to have refused to attend her sentencing hearing today, although she was in the cells at Manchester Crown Court.

Members of the grieving families and the public and some politicians had suggested she should be forced to attend. Felicity explained that, however serious the crimes before the court, the system must maintain humanity: This includes restorative justice processes to enable victim personal statements to be given. It also means we should not be using sentencing hearings for denunciation or retribution and this includes not forcing attendance.

Most people do attend their sentences but there are a range of reasons why a few do not. Young people, for example, sometimes refuse because they will lose their ‘home’ and their stability if they attend court and are sent back to a different prison.

To allow restorative justice processes develop, we can consider removing draconian mandatory penalties so that accused persons can engage more in the outcome with more detailed plea hearing as in Australia but shackling / dragging people into court is not the solution.

We don’t know the real reasons for Lucy Letby’s absence but, Felicity said rather than focus on her we should be thinking about how our criminal justice system can be improved.

Lucy Letby has been given a whole-life sentence. The 33-year-old was convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six other infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital.