The 33-year-old was found guilty on Friday of murdering seven infants and attempting to murder six others when she was working on the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016. She deliberately injected newborns with air, force-fed others milk, or poisoned them with insulin.
The child killer nurse is set to be sentenced on Monday at Manchester Crown Court and could be handed a rare whole-life order by judge Mr Justice Goss, but she indicated to her legal team last week that she will not take any part in the hearing.
However, prison officers could use “lawful enforcement” as a last resort to ensure the baby murderer attends her sentencing and faces the families of her victims, a government source told the Press Association, adding that it should be considered necessary, reasonable and proportionate.
They said: “Lucy Letby should be in court to hear society’s condemnation of the enormity of her crimes, expressed by the judge. 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.”
Currently, judges can order criminals to appear in court, while prison officers are allowed to use reasonable force to take them there - but it is believed some guards are reluctant to do so for fear of legal action if their actions are seen to have overstepped the necessary, reasonable and proportionate criteria.
The father of twin boys who Letby tried to murder is among those demanding a change to the law, slamming the current system as a “total injustice” and branding her “cowardly”.
He told the Mail: “I'm so angry that Letby is refusing to come to court to hear her sentence. She is a coward and we feel cheated that she will not be present to hear exactly how her terrible actions have affected our boys and our lives. What gives her the right to refuse to come up from the cells or to tell the judge that she doesn't intend to listen to his sentence?
Labour's shadow prisons minister Ellie Reeves has joined the calls for those guilty of heinous crimes to be dragged to court to face justice in person, saying criminals should be “dragged kicking and screaming” into court to hear sentencing.
Asked about Letby's apparent refusal to be in the dock, Ms Reeves told BBC Breakfast: “During a trial, the victims and their families have to sit and listen to all of the evidence. The sentencing is their opportunity for their voices to be heard.
“So it is crucial the defendant is there to hear those victim impact statements, to hear about the impact their crimes have had. I really do think they need to be in that courtroom to hear it. It is fundamental to our justice system that justice is not only done, but seen to be done.”
Children’s minister Claire Coutinho told Times Radio it is "absolutely sickening" that Lucy Letby will not be in court on Monday, adding: “Her crimes have been so appalling.”
She did speak of commitment across Government to making sure that people who have committed crimes are facing the reality of that.
Asked on GB News about Letby’s refusal to attend her sentencing, Ms Coutinho said: “I know that the Justice Secretary has said he’s very committed to making changes that are needed to make sure that people who have committed awful crimes have to go to court so they can hear things like the victims’ impact statement, which is really their moment to tell that person how this has impacted them.”
On how it should be done, she said: “I’m not a justice minister, but what I do know is that the Justice Secretary has talked about his commitment to it.
“I know that there is commitment across Government to making sure that people who have committed crimes are facing the reality of that so they can hear these things and my understanding is that does mean that a change in the law is needed and the Justice Secretary has said that he’s committed to looking at that.”