The Lucy Letby inquiry should be broadcast to the public to prevent the spread of “grossly offensive” conspiracy theories, lawyers for the families of her victims said.

The inquiry, which will begin on 10 September and be held at Liverpool town hall, will examine how the nurse was able to murder babies at the Countess of Chester hospital’s neonatal unit in 2015 and 2016.

It will also investigate the conduct of others at the hospital, including senior management, and the culture in the wider NHS.

Letby, 34, was sentenced to 14 whole life orders after she was convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others, with two attempts on one of her victims.

At a preliminary hearing for the inquiry, chaired by Lady Justice Thirlwall, lawyers for the families on Thursday argued that the proceedings should be livestreamed to the public, in part to “combat conspiracy theories”.

Peter Skelton KC, representing families of six babies, described the online speculation as “grossly offensive” and “distressing” for his clients, whom he compared to relatives of school shooting victims in the US.

He said: “One of the most effective antidotes to those theories and the damage they cause will be to see and to hear the people involved in the hospital give a true and comprehensive account of the facts.”

He called a submission by lawyers representing the hospital, which said a livestream might make witnesses less inclined to speak with candour, extraordinary. “All the staff working at the hospital are public servants, they have a moral obligation to give a true and complete account.”

Richard Baker KC, representing some of the other families, said his clients had suffered “an unimaginable harm in unimaginable circumstances”, adding: “Their desire in this case is for change, and so that others do not experience what they have experienced.” However, he said they were saddened and concerned at the prospect of a lack of transparency in the public hearings.

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Andrew Kennedy KC, representing the Countess of Chester, said the hospital had expressed “profound sorrow and regret” about the circumstances and wanted to provide as much assistance to the inquiry as it could. But he said there was a high level of anxiety among staff at the prospect of giving evidence that was broadcast.

Rachel Langdale KC, counsel to the inquiry, said court orders that prevented the identification of a number of people involved, including all of the babies, had to be complied with. Thirlwall said she would give her decision on whether the hearings would be broadcast, at a later date.



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