All violent crimes harm. Some though are darkened by such calculated, calm cruelty as to be barely comprehensible.
Following the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust, the writer Hannah Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil”; in an attempt to capture the ‘terrifyingly normal’ demeanor of a man whose ruthlessness knew no bounds.
Eighty years after wartime German atrocities, the sickening crimes of Lucy Letby, the nurse recently convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six others, affirm that, far from being ineffably reasonable, human minds and hands are capable of every kind of barbarity.
The apparently ‘normal’ 33-year-old nurse was, on the face of it, an ordinary young woman, without past traumas or obvious personal problems.
The only meaningful explanation for the monster she is and the horror she wrought is the ferocity of absolute wickedness.
Letby’s refusal to accept guilt for her, apparently motiveless, acts adds callous impunity to her haunting crimes, as in the emotionless response to being captured and convicted she showed no regret and offered no remorse.
The killer’s cowardly refusal to attend court for the verdict and sentencing brought yet more suffering to the families of her victims; for justice must -literally- be seen to be done.
The Government is right to say that, in future, murderers like her must be forced to face the families whose lives they have shattered.
Maternity wards as places of hope and joy.
So, it impossible to reconcile our natural, intuitive delight in new life with Letby’s evil deeds; for almost all of us are captivatingly driven by their very defenselessness, to protect and nurture children.
Yet, there exists a corrupt few who feel anything but protective.
Recently, Derbyshire couple Gemma Barton and Craig Crouch were imprisoned for torturing and killing their 10-month old baby Jacob.
Such crimes against precious, fragile babies first shock, then appall and finally fill us a just determination to seek righteous retribution.
It is understandable that explanations are sought for horrifying events like these, but we will not always find them.
For there is no real reason for wickedness, beyond a recognition of the endlessness of sin.
So, when good people ask ‘Why did she do it?’ or ‘How could they have wanted to?’ the answer is plain – evil exists for evils sake.
In the fullness of time, following investigations, it is right to establish whether failures at the hospitals in which Letby’s victims died mean more should have been done to catch her earlier.
Nevertheless, the depth of her wickedness is such that she could never have been deterred, will never be cured and should never, on Earth, be forgiven.
For her crimes, Letby has been given a whole life sentence, meaning that she will reside in prison permanently.
Yet many will query whether even that punishment is enough.
Perhaps this most haunting tragedy, executed by this most vile of killers, obliges reconsideration of the relationship between crime and punishment in cases where guilt is sure and certain.
The death penalty for murder was abolished in 1969, with the last executions taking place five years earlier.
Maybe it is time to look again – through a public plebiscite – at what many of us think is the only fitting response to the most heinous crimes.
Many constituents that I have spoken to since Letby’s name was added to the list of history’s most reviled criminals have told me that they think ‘prison is too good for her’.
That was the certain view we took of the Nazi war criminals who were hanged following their convictions at the Nuremberg trials.
So, the question is – were we right then? or are we right now to allow Letby to live for decades to come, through the years of life she stole from the babies she slaughtered?