A PUBLIC inquiry into what is being branded “the worst treatment scandal in the history of the NHS” starts hearing evidence today – with a Yorkshire law firm playing a key role.
Leeds-headquartered Milners has been appointed to act on behalf of leading campaigners determined to uncover what went wrong, and why.
In another vote of confidence in the region’s legal talent, the solicitors’ specialist public inquiry team has been hired to represent the interests of several victims and their families at the Infected Blood Inquiry in London.
They include the person credited with being among the first to lift the lid on the scandal. It has resulted in many thousands of haemophiliacs dying after receiving blood products – many from America – contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s.
This is the second Government public inquiry this year where Milners’ Regulatory and Inquiry team has played a key role – it also acts on behalf of an institution involved in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).
“Our appointment is another example of the home-grown legal talent in Yorkshire being in demand on the national stage, amid a fierce press, public and political spotlight,” said Milners’ Senior Partner Giles Ward.
“This is a horrific human tragedy on an unprecedented scale and our clients, who still live with the consequences every single day, are united in fighting for justice – and the truth.”
“Today marks the next and most important step of a long journey to discover exactly what happened and to ensure a tragedy of this scale can never be repeated.”
“Around half the patients who were treated with contaminated blood products have already died. This number is expected to rise during the lifespan of the inquiry which is set to last three years such is the scale of the scandal.”
“We hope that, after years of campaigning, those caught up in it can now at long last get answers to their questions about how this fatal mistake, and the alleged cover-up that followed, was allowed to happen.”
Many families of patients who contracted HIV from the infected blood were forced to live in secrecy or fear because of the stigma surrounding the disease.
He added: “We have a developing specialism in supporting clients at complex and high-profile independent inquiries and feature among just a handful of lawyers appointed to represent core participants in this one.”
Milners has appointed leading barrister Sam Stein QC to work alongside Ward and colleague, litigation and public law solicitor Ben Harrison, as part of its legal team. In-demand Stein is also currently involved in both the Grenfell Inquiry and IICSA.
The Infected Blood Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2017 and is being chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff. It is been screened live from its website www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk
It 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.
It is the latest in a long line of Government public inquiries into the country’s biggest tragedies and scandals, that 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.