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Lucy Letby: police launch corporate manslaughter probe

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where then-neonatal nurse Lucy Letby murdered six children and attempted to kill six more, is being investigated for corporate manslaughter.

Cheshire Constabulary detective superintendent Simon Blackwell announced the start of the criminal investigation today, following the conviction of 33-year-old Letby in August and her subsequent sentencing of multiple life in prison orders.

“The investigation is in the very early stages and we are unable to go into any further details or answer specific questions at this time”

Simon Blackwell

DS Blackwell said the corporate manslaughter investigation will follow the same indictment period as Letby’s trial – June 2015 to June 2016.

The investigation will look into whether senior leadership and decision making at the hospital amounted to causing corporate manslaughter.

“At this stage we are not investigating any individuals in relation to gross negligence manslaughter,” the detective superintendent said.

What is corporate manslaughter?  

An offence of corporate manslaughter is committed when “very serious failings” on the part of companies and other organisations lead to death, or deaths.

For a company to be found liable, it must be proven that a gross breach of a duty of care happened, and that senior management failings “must have formed a substantial element” of this breach.

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It must also be proven that this breach of a duty was “causative” of death.

It is a criminal offence, and can be brought against private bodies such as limited companies and partnership, local authorities, police departments, and some government departments and NHS trusts.

An individual cannot be prosecuted for this offence, the organisation itself acts as defendant.

Sentences depend on the size of the organisation, but range between a monetary penalty of £180,000-£20,000,000.

He continued: “The investigation is in the very early stages and we are unable to go into any further details or answer specific questions at this time.

“We recognise that this investigation will have a significant impact on a number of different stakeholders including the families in this case and we are continuing to work alongside and support them during this process.

“[The public] will be notified of any further updates in due course,” he said in a police statement.

Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has been contacted for comment.

Last month, Letby’s legal representatives announced in court that she is appealing all of her murder and attempted murder charges.

Shortly after, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was seeking a retrial on five further attempted murder charges against Letby, which a jury could not agree on during her trial.

As well as this, a statutory – non-criminal – inquiry into alleged failings at Countess of Chester is being set up to look into whether actions from senior trust leadership could have contributed to Letby remaining undetected at first.

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