Lucy Letby, the most prolific child serial killer in modern British history, is expected to face the rest of her life behind bars when she is sentenced on Monday.
The nurse murdered seven babies and tried to kill six more while working at the Countess of Chester Hospital neonatal unit between 2015-2016.
She has joined the list of the UK’s most twisted child killers, including the Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley and the so-called Angel of Death paediatric nurse Beverley Allitt.
Letby, 33, could be handed a whole-life order by judge Mr Justice Goss at Manchester Crown Court.
Whole-life orders are the most severe punishment available in the UK criminal justice system, for those who commit the most serious crimes.
Letby may attend court although she previously indicated she did not intend to return to the dock, did not want to take any part in her sentencing hearing, and would not follow the hearing via video-link from prison.
Mr Justice Goss said the court has no power to force a defendant to attend a sentencing hearing but a Government source suggested “lawful enforcement” could be used as a last resort to ensure Letby attends if it is considered necessary, reasonable and proportionate.
“Lucy Letby should be in court to hear society’s condemnation of the enormity of her crimes, expressed by the judge,” the source told the PA news agency.
“If that requires the use of lawful enforcement, so be it. If she continues to refuse, that will only strengthen our resolve to change the law as soon as we can.”
Earlier this year, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said the Government is “committed” to changing the law so criminals are compelled to attend their sentencing hearings.
Former justice secretary Robert Buckland called for the sentencing to be played into Letby’s cell if she does not attend, regardless of her wishes, and said she should have to listen to the victim statements from the families of the babies she murdered.
“She needs to hear the victim’s personal statements, as impact statements that will really bring home I think, to the wider world, the appalling devastating impact of the loss of these innocent children, these innocent babies, have had upon dozens of families,” Mr Buckland told GB News.
The Conservative chairman of the Health Select Committee has meanwhile called for a judge-led statutory inquiry to examine Letby’s crimes.
Steve Brine expressed concern that the non-statutory independent inquiry, announced by the Government, will not have the power to compel witnesses, and could drag on for years and “disappear down a rabbit hole”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.
Police have also been urged to investigate hospital bosses for potential corporate manslaughter.
The prosecution’s lead medical expert, retired consultant paediatrician Dewi Evans, says he will write to Cheshire Constabulary to ask them to investigate “grossly negligent” bosses for not acting on fears about Letby while she was on a killing spree, the Observer reported.
Consultants who raised concerns about Letby as far back as 2015 have said babies could have been saved if hospital management had listened and acted sooner.
The Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit head consultant, Dr Stephen Brearey, first raised Letby’s association with an increase in baby collapses in June 2015.
He told the Guardian that deaths could arguably have been avoided from as early as February 2016 if executives had “responded appropriately” to an urgent meeting request from concerned doctors.
Police were contacted only in 2017.
Letby was arrested at her semi-detached home in Westbourne Road, Chester, at 6am on July 3 2018.
During searches of her address, a number of closely written notes were discovered.
On one note she wrote “I don’t deserve to live. I killed them on purpose because I’m not good enough to care for them”, “I am a horrible evil person” and in capital letters “I am evil I did this”.
Prosecutor Nick Johnson KC invited the jurors to read the note “literally” as a confession.
Her “voyeuristic tendencies” drove her to carry out numerous Facebook searches for parents of children she attacked, he said.
She used various ways to harm the babies, including injecting air into the bloodstream, injecting air into the stomach, overfeeding with milk, physical assaults and poisoning with insulin.
Letby, who denied all the allegations, falsified medical notes to cover her tracks and gaslighted doctors and nurses to persuade them the collapses were “just a run of bad luck”.
On Friday jurors completed their deliberations of 110 hours and 26 minutes – spanning 22 days – following a trial which began last October.
The jury of seven women and four men convicted Letby of seven counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in relation to six other infants.
Cheshire Police say they are continuing to review the care of some 4,000 babies who were admitted to the Countess of Chester, and also at Liverpool Women’s Hospital when Letby had two work placements, during her employment from 2012.
Prisoners given a whole-life order are never considered for release unless there are exceptional compassionate grounds to warrant it.
Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which passed through Parliament last year, the Government has expanded the use of whole-life orders for premeditated murder of a child.
Only three women have previously been handed a whole-life order, which used to be known as a whole life tariff – Hindley, who died in 2002, and serial killers Rose West and Joanna Dennehy.