July 12 2017
Today the UK Government announced that it will hold a public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal in the 1970s/80s. 30 Park Place welcomes this excellent news after the failure of successive governments to do so. Prior to this announcement, Rhodri Williams QC and Christian J Howells were acting on behalf of welsh victims of the scandal in a potential claim for judicial review against the UK Government’s recent refusal to hold such an inquiry, together with Michael Imperato from Watkins & Gunn Solicitors.
Mr Imperato worked tirelessly in conjunction with Julie Morgan AM (Chair of the cross-party group on haemophilia and contaminated blood) and Vaughan Gethin AC/AM (Cabinet Secretary for Health) in an effort to achieve this inquiry for his clients. The Welsh Assembly passed a motion on the 25th of January 2017 calling for this public inquiry, which was not heeded by the UK Government.
70 people in Wales died from HIV and Hepatitis C after being infected by contaminated blood products and hundreds more are suffering with the consequences.
It was argued that the victims of the scandal deserved a full public inquiry so that they could understand the truth about what happened; were warnings that American supplied blood products were not safe ignored? Why were haemophiliacs not warned of the risks? What happened to Lord Owen’s ministerial papers and why was it said they were destroyed under a “ten year rule”? Why did England & Wales not achieve self-sufficiency as Scotland did?
The Government’s arguments that two previous inquiries (a public inquiry in Scotland and a privately funded inquiry in England & Wales) did not attribute blame to the UK Government was, in the view of the legal team, seriously flawed. The former was limited to consideration of what happened in Scotland and the latter did not seek, in its terms of reference, to attribute blame and the Department of Health declined to co-operate with the inquiry as it did not have the power to compel anyone to give evidence. It was argued that a full public inquiry was necessary for the UK Government to discharge its duty to investigate the deaths that resulted from contaminated blood under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
After a long campaign for justice, those who worked tirelessly for this outcome (including victims, campaigners and politicians) will now have the opportunity to hear explanations for what happened from those who were involved. They are to be congratulated on their efforts.