MP David Davis Criticizes Block on Lucy Letby Trial Article as 'Defiance of Open Justice'

MP David Davis Criticizes Block on Lucy Letby Trial Article as 'Defiance of Open Justice'

May, 15 2024


In a significant address to the Commons, Conservative former minister Sir David Davis expressed his deep concerns over the blocking of an article from the New Yorker magazine regarding the trial of Lucy Letby, a convicted child serial killer. According to Davis, this move stands 'in defiance of open justice'. The article meticulously questions the evidence that led to Letby's conviction for the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six others while she worked as a nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

The New Yorker Article

The New Yorker, known for its in-depth investigative journalism, published a comprehensive 13,000-word piece delving into the Lucy Letby trial. This article raised significant issues about the statistical evidence used during the trial. The scrutiny of such vital elements of the case presents an opportunity for public discourse and a deeper understanding of the judicial process involved. However, the publication of this article was met with a court order that prevents it from being read by the public in the UK. This restriction, imposed presumably to ensure a fair judicial process moving forward, has been met with criticism from various quarters, including prominent politicians.

David Davis's Critique of the Block

Sir David Davis is a vocal advocate for open justice and transparent judicial processes. Speaking to the House of Commons, he underscored the critical role that transparency plays in upholding the integrity of the justice system. He emphasized that while the court order might have been well-intentioned, it ultimately works against the core principles of open justice. He urged the government to reassess this order, suggesting that limiting access to such information enables a culture of secrecy rather than one of accountability and scrutiny.

Justice Secretary's Response

Responding to Davis's concerns, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk highlighted the necessity of adhering to court orders. He pointed out that if individuals or entities believe a court order should be lifted, they must follow the due process and apply for its removal through the court system. Additionally, Chalk stressed the importance of respecting the jury's verdict, maintaining that if there are legitimate grounds for an appeal, the legal channels are available for such actions. He reiterated that the sanctity of the judicial process and the jury’s decisions must be upheld.

The Lucy Letby Case

In August last year, Lucy Letby, hailing from Hereford, was found guilty by a jury at Manchester Crown Court. Her conviction includes the murder of seven infants and the attempted murder of six others at the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital. The timeline of her crimes spans from June 2015 to June 2016. The case has gripped the nation, sparking debates on multiple fronts, including the integrity of the evidence and the transparency of the judicial proceedings.

Letby has since launched an appeal against her convictions, which was considered over a three-day hearing last month. A panel of judges has reserved their judgment to a future date, leaving Letby’s fate hanging in the balance. If the judges decide against granting permission for the appeal, it would bring an end to her legal avenues for challenging the convictions.

Reporting Restrictions and Future Proceedings

The initial trial left some charges unresolved. The jury could not reach a verdict on six counts of attempted murder concerning five different children. As a result, Letby faces a retrial in June on one count of attempted murder involving a baby girl. The retrial is set to take place at the same court, with an estimated duration of three weeks starting June 10. Given the sensitive nature of the case, reporting restrictions remain firmly in place to prevent potential prejudice. These restrictions limit UK media from generating new material on the original trial, except for reporting the jury's initial verdicts. Furthermore, an existing court order protects the identities of both surviving and deceased children involved in the allegations and several staff members of the Countess of Chester Hospital.


The discourse around the blocking of the New Yorker article on Lucy Letby's trial has spotlighted the broader issue of open justice. Sir David Davis's impassioned plea for a review of the court order captures the tension between judicial prudence and the freedom of information. As the judicial process continues with Letby’s impending retrial, the balance between ensuring a fair judicial process and maintaining public transparency remains a pertinent topic. The outcome of this case might serve as a precedent for how similar situations are handled in the future, influencing the relationship between the judiciary and the media in the UK.