Lucy Letby: Cheshire Constabulary share footage from arrest
Payouts to the families of Lucy Letby’s victims could exceed £60million, a lawyer has said after the former neonatal nurse was jailed for life for the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of six more.
The 33-year-old was sentenced on August 18 at Manchester Crown Court after a trial lasting a total of 10 months – but with a Government inquiry in the pipeline and multiple lawsuits pending, the story is far from finished.
The probe is likely to centre on the role played by executives at the Countess of Chester Hospital, where Letby was employed from 2012 until April 2018, when she was arrested, and where she targeted multiple children between 2015 and 2016.
In particular, it will seek to establish why consultants’ warnings about Letby were apparently ignored, with Dr Chris Brearey among those ordered to write a formal letter apologising to her for raising suspicions.
In 2017, days before she was due to return to work, police launched a criminal investigation which ultimately led to her prosecution.
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Lucy Letby was handed a whole-life term earlier this month
Police are also understood to be looking at 4,000 other cases at the hospital, as well as Liverpool Women’s Hospital, where Letby worked on placement in 2012 and 2015.
Claudia Hillemand, Head of the Child Brain Injury team at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, told Express.co.uk: “Reported estimates of claims amounting to between £50 million and £60 million would likely account for all claims that have so far come to light.
“However given reports of further investigations into Letby’s former workplaces, these estimates could rise, if further cases of concern are identified.”
The six children Letby was convicted of trying to murder have been left with a range of disabilities, and Ms Hillemand said the criteria used to determine the value of the compensation would include many factors, ranging fro the nature of the child’s injury to their care needs, accommodation, equipment and therapy.
Lucy Letby was employed as a neonatal nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester
She continued: “The child’s life expectancy will also be relevant to the valuation of the claim. Independent experts are usually involved to determine the child’s lifelong needs, and the costs. A sum will also usually be included for pain and suffering.
“This amount is fixed by guidelines according to the type of injury. In some cases, there may be a loss of earning claim.”
How the process will ‘play out’ and in particular, the length of time to conclude the process also depend on several variables, including the stage at which the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust accepted liability, and the nature of the child’s injuries.
She warned: “If the trust does not accept responsibility at an early stage, this will inevitably prolong the case and sadly during that time, the children are unlikely to be able to access compensation to fund the input they need.”
Once liability is resolved, if independent medical experts is able to give a firm view on what the child will need for their life, a conclusion should be possible in a relatively short time.
Dr Stephen Brearey talking to the BBC
If however, the experts are not able to be definitive about a child’s prognosis and lifelong needs, the claim will need to continue until they are in a position to do so, Ms Hillemand stressed.
She continued: “During this time, the child should be able to access interim payments of their compensation to fund their immediate needs until such a time that a settlement can be reached, or a judge decides the level of compensation. Settlements for children will need to be approved by the Court.
“If the children bringing claims are successful, they will receive compensation for their injuries, and their lawyer’s reasonable legal fees will be paid by the hospital Trust. If those legal fees cannot be agreed , they will be assessed by the Court.”
In the case of the children murdered by Letby, the situation was more complex – but parents may still be able to bring claims under what is known as the Fatal Accidents Act, said Ms Hillemand.
She explained: “The value of the claim involving a deceased child is likely to be significantly lower than that of a child who has survived and suffered lifelong injuries.
A custody van after Lucy Letby’s sentencing earlier this month
“The value of a life can never be quantified, but the law attempts to do so through a bereavement award, which currently sits at around £15,000.
“It may also be possible for parents of the deceased to claim for expenses such as funeral costs, and for compensation for psychological injury they have suffered.”
There were ongoing campaigns lobbying for an increase in the sums awarded in tragic sad cases where someone dies as a result of negligence, Ms Hillemand pointed out.
With the jury acquitting Letby of two more charges of attempted murder, and failing to reach a verdict on six others, Ms Hillemand also said this did not necessarily mean the parents of other children who have died in unexplained services have no legal recourse.
She said: “In cases where a criminal conviction has not yet been secured, it may still be possible for families to bring a civil claim.
“The prospects of winning the claim will depend on the strength of the evidence available, and whilst the burden will still be on the parents to prove their case, the legal test in the civil court is less onerous than in the criminal courts.”