Victims and families of those affected by the historic infected blood scandal will begin giving evidence at the first of many witness hearings of the Infected Blood Inquiry taking place across the UK.
The infected blood scandal saw thousands of people across the UK infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products introduced through transfusions, blood products and other treatments administered by the NHS during the late 1970s and 1980s.
More than one thousand people have died in the UK, a significant percentage being from Wales and Northern Ireland. Hundreds are still living with the debilitating illnesses and health issues associated with being infected.
This independent public inquiry aims to uncover the reasons 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.
Following the preliminary hearings of the Inquiry in September 2018, victims and their families have been coming forward to provide witness statements. Each day of the witness hearings, the Inquiry will hear from victims and families both infected and affected.
The hearings will commence in London on 30 April with more taking place in cities across the UK until mid-October.
The hearings will take place in Belfast from 21-25 May and in Cardiff from 23-26 July.
Chair of the Inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, said:
“I have little doubt that their testimony will not only be poignant but also a powerful tool in helping to get to the truth of what happened.”
Watkins & Gunn is one of the designated firms appointed to the Inquiry and represents more than 300 victims, many of whom are core participants. Watkins & Gunn is providing legal guidance and support to victims and their families throughout the entire process.
After leading the legal fight for justice for the past three years, solicitor Michael Imperato of Watkins & Gunn says:
“This Inquiry is the only real chance that victims will have to get to the truth and to see justice done at long last. The voices of all must be heard and I would urge any victim, or family of a victim, to come forward and help us tell your story. The opportunity will never come again.’”
Chair of Haemophilia Wales, Lynne Kelly, says:
“Haemophilia Wales has campaigned on behalf of both haemophiliacs and transfusion victims and families and welcomes the start of the public hearings so that victims can finally give their personal accounts of what has happened.”
Simon Hamilton, Chair of Haemophilia Northern Ireland described the hearings as a further step in righting the wrongs committed against an unsuspecting community with blood disorders:
“The Public Inquiry is our last real chance to hear the ugly truth and see justice after too long. We have all lost friends in this disaster and this will be a moment for them.”
For those wishing to attend the hearings in person, registration has now opened for all sessions on the Infected Blood Inquiry website. The hearings will also be streamed live to the Infected Blood Inquiry ‘Youtube’ channel.
For more information please look around the website or call us on 0300 1240 400.
For media enquiries please contact Rhian Richards or Lyndsey Jenkins at jamjar on 01446 771265 / firstname.lastname@example.org