Inquiry into why people were given contaminated blood from prisoners and drug addicts has opened

Tony Farrugia and Chris Smith after the Prime Minister announced the inquiry last year.

Tony Farrugia and Chris Smith after the Prime Minister announced the inquiry last year. - Credit: Archant

A government-led inquiry that will look at why almost 3,000 people - including two men from Huntingdonshire - received contaminated blood products, has opened today (Monday).

Many of the victims died prematurely - some were haemophilics or had conditions that meant they were given blood transfusions or blood plasma, some were pregnant women who developed complications during childbirth. It has since been revealed that some of this blood originated from the US and had been donated by prisoners and drug addicts who were carrying HIV and the hepatitis C virus (Hep C), and had been paid.

The inquiry, ordered by Theresa May last year, after a decades of fighting for justice by the families of the people who died, will look into how and why it was allowed to happen and whether there was any subsequent cover up by the government and health bodies.

Some of the victims who contracted HIV and Hep C died in the seventies and eighties when there was little public sympathy for Aids victims and some families were too frightened to talk openly and were forced to lie about the cause of death of their loved ones.

According to the Press Association, in a statement read out to the inquiry at Church House, in Westminster, the audience was told that almost 3,000 people have died and the number continues to rise. Figures show that half of the people with haemophilia who were infected have now died.

Medical records have gone missing and government documents were destroyed, those gathered for the inquiry were told. Financial support to enable sufferers to live with dignity has been denied, it was said.

Statements and evidence from families is scheduled for early next year.

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Chairman of the inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, has said the inquiry would be an opportunity for the families to decide where the focus should be. He also encouraged more people to come forward if they had knowledge, documents or a story to tell, but he understood this would be difficult for some.

The law firm Leigh Day is representing more than 240 people as core participants who have been affected by the contaminated blood, both those given the blood through routine transfusion such as following an accident, complications during childbirth or routine dental treatment, and people with haemophilia who were given infected blood products.

The Department of Health has previously said that as many as 30,000 people may have been exposed to blood infections.

Among those involved in the law suit are Tony Farrugia, and Christopher Smith, of St Neots, whose fathers both died from Aids contracted from blood factor products.

Mr Farrugia was placed into care when his father died at the age of 37. Mr Smith said his father’s death at the age of just 32 had “killed the family business and killed some of the family in the process as well”.