30 April, 2019

Infected Blood Inquiry evidence begins

The first evidence from the infected and affected began today in the UK-wide Infected Blood Inquiry.

The Inquiry will examine why men, women and children in the UK were given infected blood and/or infected blood products, the impact on their families, how the authorities (including government) responded, the nature of any support provided following infection, questions of consent and whether there was a cover-up.

In the opening statement from the Sir Brian Langstaff, Chair of the Inquiry he said:

“Today is a significant day for the Inquiry. It’s the day we first hear evidence given orally.”

“I want to thank the many who have volunteered statements…some are harrowing, some moving, some chilling. All are valuable.”

“At the preliminary hearings I set out the principles guiding this Inquiry: putting people at its heart, being as quick as reasonable thoroughness permits, respecting a person’s right to be heard, being open and transparent, being independent and being frightened of no one.”

“Every statement the Inquiry receives will be read. Each will be different, and each is important. And the evidence of all those who have made, or will make, statements is of real value, whether or not they give it orally.”

“For many making a statement has been, and for some it yet will be, an act of bravery…. It may have stirred up, and may yet stir up, distressing memories. I understand some simply cannot bring themselves to make a statement because it is too much.”

“I am here to listen. I have much to learn and the oral evidence will be an important part of that.”

In her opening statement, Jenni Richards QC, Counsel to the Inquiry, said:

“The fulfilment of the terms of reference requires us to look at treatment, to look at warnings, to examine adequacy of information provided and the adequacy of support and care given.”

“Those who are not being called to give evidence should know that every statement is read and every statement will inform our findings and every statement will be published.”

“I would like to update on the work of the Inquiry. The scale is unprecedented. So far the Inquiry has received 1200 witness statements and we expect the same again in the coming months. Large scale searches are taking place.”

“Further plans for hearings, following those in October, the Inquiry intends to build on evidence from individuals by hearing from some clinical experts giving evidence about impact. There will then be a pause to review evidence before further hearings beginning in Spring.”

Ampersand’s Aidan O’Neill QC with Jamie Dawson (and Kirsten Sjovoll of Matrix Chambers) as junior counsel, act for Haemophilia Scotland and the Scottish Infected Blood Forum instructed by Thompsons Solicitors (Scotland). Ampersand’s Simon Bowie QC (with Barney Ross of Compass Chambers) is for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Health Boards is instructed by the Central Legal Office, NHS National Services Scotland.

Details of the Inquiry can be found on the Inquiry website here.

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