Posted: Wed 4th Oct 2023

Police launch corporate manslaughter investigation at Countess of Chester Hospital

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 4th, 2023

Cheshire Police has said it is investigating into possible corporate manslaughter at the Countess of Chester hospital following the conviction of killer nurse Lucy Letby.

Detective Superintendent Simon Blackwell, the strategic lead for Operation Hummingbird, said

“Following the lengthy trial, subsequent conviction of Lucy Letby and an assessment by senior investigative officers, I can confirm that Cheshire Constabulary is carrying out an investigation into corporate manslaughter at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

The move comes after a jury found Letby, 33, guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder a further six while working at the neonatal unit of the hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

Detective Superintendent Blackwell said: “The investigation will focus on the indictment period of the charges for Lucy Letby, from June 2015 to June 2016, and consider areas including senior leadership and decision making to determine whether any criminality has taken place. At this stage we are not investigating any individuals in relation to gross negligence manslaughter.

“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.

Jane Tomkinson OBE, Acting Chief Executive Officer at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were deeply saddened and appalled at Lucy Letby’s crimes when the verdicts were delivered. Following the trial we have always maintained we will be supporting the ongoing investigation by Cheshire Police and will be cooperating fully with the investigation announced today so that we can help get the answers that the families and babies affected by this case rightly deserve.”

“Cheshire Police have given us their assurance that they are providing ongoing support to the families, who remain at the forefront of our thoughts and efforts to support this investigation. It would not be appropriate for the Trust to make any further comment at this time.”

“You will be notified of any further updates in due course.”

Letby is set to face a retrial on an outstanding allegation of attempted murder. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌‌​​‍‌​​‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​​‌‌​‍‌​‌‌‌‌‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌​‌​‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌‌‍‌​​‌​‌‌​‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌​​‌‍‌​​‌‌​‌​‍‌​​​‌‌​​

The trial date has been provisionally set for 10 June 2024 at the Manchester Crown Court, the same court where Letby was previously convicted.

 

What is Corporate Manslaughter?  

The Crown Prosecution Service states: The statutory offence of Corporate Manslaughter was brought in to ensure that there were “effective laws in place to prosecute organisations where they have paid scant regard to the proper management of health and safety with fatal results”

The offence applies only to certain organisations, as defined by the Act. They include private bodies such as limited companies and partnerships. Public bodies such as local authorities and NHS Trusts can also be held liable, on the grounds that they are bodies incorporated by statute.

Specified government departments and police forces can also be held liable. Individuals cannot be prosecuted for the offence, whether as an accessory or otherwise.

The offence was created to overcome the limitations of the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter as applied to companies and other incorporated bodies.

Under the common law, in order for a company to be guilty of the offence it was necessary for a senior individual who could be said to embody the company to be guilty of gross negligence. This was known as the ‘identification principle’.

The effect of the 2007 Act was to widen the scope of the offence so that the focus of the offence is now on the overall management of the organisation’s activities rather than the actions of particular individuals.

Within the framework of the Act, it is possible for the failings of a number of individuals within the organisation to be aggregated. However, it remains the case that the offence applies only in respect of a ‘gross breach’ of a relevant duty of care, reflecting the same standard of culpability as the common law offence.

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