July 20, 2024

Lucy Letby has been sentenced to a ‘whole life order’ – here’s what that means

Lucy Letby has been handed 14 whole-life orders for murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others in a neonatal ward at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

The judge, Mr Justice Goss, imposed a whole life order for each offence Letby committed. This is the most severe sentence available under UK law and means she will spend the rest of her life in prison without the possibility of parole – bar extreme mitigating circumstances. Letby, 33, was not present for the sentencing.

Before passing the sentence, Mr Justice Goss said, «This was a cruel, calculated and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable children, knowing your actions were causing significant physical suffering.

“There was a malevolence bordering on sadism in your actions. ”

A whole life order is reserved for the most dangerous criminals. In September 2021, Wayne Couzens was sentenced to a whole life order for the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard.

Lucy Letby is the fourth woman in UK history to receive a whole life order after Myra Hindley in 1966, Rosemary West in 1977, and Joanna Dennehy in 2013.

Lucy Letby has been sentenced to a whole life order for the murder of seven babies.

What is a whole life order?

A whole life order is very different to a sentence that includes parole and consideration of good behaviour.

Convicted criminals must be at least 21 years of age to receive a whole life order.

If a criminal is sentenced to a whole life order, they will never be put up for parole, and will likely spend their whole life in prison.

There are sometimes exceptions for compassionate grounds, but these are quite rare and must be extreme in order to be considered.

How many people are serving whole-life orders?

Government figures released in June 2021 showed there were just 60 criminals serving whole-life orders in the UK, which means they will never be eligible for parole.

Which other criminals are serving whole life orders and sentences?

There are a fair number of notable murderers in the UK who are serving whole-life orders and multiple life sentences.

Rose West is a serial killer who, alongside her husband Fred West, tortured and murdered at least nine young women between 1973 and 1987. Rose also murdered her eight-year-old stepdaughter, Charmaine, in 1971. Rose is an inmate at HM Prison New Hall in Flockton, West Yorkshire. She was convicted in 1995 and is serving a whole life order. Her husband Fred took his own life in prison that same year while awaiting trial.

On May 22 2013, British Army soldier Lee Rigby was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the army barracks in Woolwich, southeast London. The following year they were both sentenced to life behind bars, with Adebolajo given a whole life order and Adebowale ordered to serve at least 45 years.

Levi Bellfield is a serial killer and sex offender who is serving two whole life orders for killing Milly Dowler, Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange, and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. He is the only serial killer in the UK to have been served with two whole life orders, which means he will never be considered for parole.

Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was brutally murdered after being shot and stabbed multiple times in June 2016. Thomas Alexander Mair was found guilty of her murder and was served a whole life order after it was found that he was associated with Nazism and white supremacism.

Peter Sutcliffe, known as ‘The Yorkshire Ripper’, and serial killer doctor Harold Shipman both served life sentences in prison, before dying behind bars.

Who issues a whole-life order?

Court judges issue life sentences, but it hasn’t always been this way. Home secretaries used to have this power, when it was known as whole-life tariffs – but this ended in 2003 when judges were given the power.

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