An editor has criticised a police force for branding an in-house documentary its media team produced about serial killer Lucy Letby as an “exclusive”.
Marc Waddington, who is responsible for Reach plc weekly the Chester Chronicle and its Cheshire Live sister website, has claimed the boast is not “something to shout about” for Cheshire Police, although he has praised the force for the access it has given to journalists throughout the child murderer’s case.
Letby, a nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital, was sentenced to a whole life term on Monday after being found guilty of the murder of seven babies and seven further counts of attempted murder against six other infants.
Launching its video series about the case on Twitter, Cheshire Police boasted of having “exclusive access to the investigation team”.
Speaking to HTFP, Marc said: “In fairness to Cheshire Police, there has been reasonable access to investigating officers, images and video in order that media outlets could properly report the background to this appalling case.
“But when an ‘exclusive’ comes about not as a result of a reporter’s skill, determination or relationship building, but comes about instead as a result of someone being in a position of privilege not enjoyed by the media, then I wouldn’t think that was something to shout about.
“This was a huge case, and of huge public interest. But cases such as this are thankfully very rare.
“It’s important that day-to-day, media outlets are able to work constructively with police forces and get access to information and material that is of significant local public interest. Often there is no legitimate reason that it cannot be provided.
“It would be a real worry if that access was being denied because police forces were planning to use that material to essentially compete with the media.
“There’s an argument that, just as it’s not our job as reporters to go out arresting people, it’s not the job of the police to report the news.”
Yesterday’s edition of the Chronicle, pictured above, was the first since the verdicts and sentencing.
The newspaper ran a front page editorial leader criticising NHS bosses who had the chance to stop Letby and ran 14 pages of coverage inside include court reports, background, interviews and opinion pieces.
Marc added: “That the UK’s most prolific modern day child serial killer was at large in the wards of a hospital in the heart of our patch is hard to comprehend.
“And it’s even harder to try to comprehend how she was able to continue for so long despite the warnings that were raised.
“As a local paper whose readers are served by the Countess of Chester hospital, we thought it was important to reflect the anger and disbelief people felt at what had been allowed to happen there, as much as it was to report the outcome of a case that has been covered in great detail by the world’s media.”
In a statement launching its video series on Tuesday, Cheshire Police said: “Operation Hummingbird is our investigation into the murders and attempted murders committed by Lucy Letby.
“Lots will be said by others, but we want to bring you our side of the story with this documentary, created with exclusive access to the investigation team.
“This was created by our communications team and we’re going to break it up into short sections over the next three days.”