UK inquiry into baby murders by nurse Lucy Letby given legal powers

A view of Lucy Letby, who was on trial at Manchester Crown Court charged with the murder of seven babies, being taken in custody by police, in Chester

LONDON (Reuters) - An inquiry into the murder of seven newborn babies by British nurse Lucy Letby will have legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence, the government said on Wednesday.

Letby was last week jailed for the rest of her life for the killings of five baby boys and two baby girls at the neonatal unit of Countess of Chester Hospital in northern England over 13 months from 2015, injecting the infants with insulin or air, or force feeding them milk.

She was also found guilty of seven counts of attempted murder.

The government immediately ordered an inquiry into the case, amid accusations from senior doctors that their concerns about Letby were not heeded by hospital bosses, and has since faced calls to ensure it is led by a judge.

"Having now discussed this with the families, we will launch a full statutory inquiry giving it the legal powers to compel witnesses to give evidence," health minister Steve Barclay said.

"This statutory public inquiry will aim to give the families the answers they need and ensure lessons are learned."

The inquiry, which will also now have to hear evidence in public, will look at the circumstances surrounding the murders and attempted murders committed by Letby, including the handling of concerns and governance.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Nick Macfie)