A LEEDS law firm is claiming a first for the city as it takes to the national stage this week (Monday October 27) for two of the biggest public inquiries in UK history.
While Giles Ward, Senior Partner and Head of Litigation at Milners solicitors, is supporting clients at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), colleague Ben Harrison is in action across the capital at the Infected Blood Inquiry.
“This marks a rare – if not unprecedented – double for a Leeds law firm,” said Mr Ward. “To be at the heart of a brace of public inquiries running side-by-side amid immense political and press scrutiny is a challenge we relish
“Just days after the Government announced a public inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, it also serves as another timely reminder of the pool of Northern Powerhouse legal talent that exists outside of London.
“We are steadily building a growing specialism in the field of public inquiries, and are delighted that our Regulatory and Inquiry team has been entrusted to represent clients at such complex and high-profile investigations.“
IICSA – set up in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal – is the largest independent inquiry into child sexual abuse ever witnessed in the UK. Milners Is among just a handful of regional lawyers involved.
There are currently 14 investigative strands to the inquiry, which include the Roman Catholic Church; the Anglican Church; residential schools; children in the care of Lambeth Council; and Westminster.
The public hearings are expected to last until at least July 2020 and the final outcome of the inquiry, which is costing around £20m a year, will not be published for several years.
In another vote of confidence in the region’s legal talent, Milners has been hired to represent the interests of several victims and their families at the Infected Blood Inquiry – branded “the biggest treatment disaster in the NHS”.
They include the person credited with being among the first to lift the lid on events in the 70s and 80s, when many thousands of haemophiliacs died after receiving blood products – many from America – contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C.
The IBI panel is tasked with examining 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.
The Milners team, working alongside Sam Stein QC from the Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, has already taken its clients’ legal fight to Number 10.
It launched an appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end the postcode compensation lottery that exists, and grant victims living in England the same level of financial support already awarded to those in Scotland.
These concurrent public inquiries are the latest in a long line of Government-ordered investigations into the country’s biggest tragedies and scandals. They include Hillsborough; Stephen Lawrence; Piper Alpha; Shipman; Bloody Sunday; the Soham murders; the Marchioness disaster; the Alder Hey organ transplant scandal; the NHS in Mid-Staffordshire; Levesen; Foot and Mouth; Victoria Climbie and the Iraq war.
A new public inquiry – into the Manchester Arena attack – was announced last week by Home Secretary Priti Patel, in a bid to give survivors of the bombing as well as those who lost loved ones, the answers the crave for.Milners, based at Whitehall Waterfront in Leeds city centre, also has offices at Harrogate and Pontefract and recently celebrated its 125th anniversary.