Hundreds of infected blood victims launch fresh legal action against government

26 May 2024, 12:35 | Updated: 26 May 2024, 15:29

Victims of the infected blood scandal have restarted legal action against the government, with their lawyer claiming there was a "misfeasance in public office".

The civil action was put on hold in 2018 but has been relaunched after the publication of the Infected Blood Inquiry report, with around 500 victims putting their names to the lawsuit.

It concerns US-imported blood-clotting products which caused haemophiliacs and others to be infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s.

A 2,527-page report by Sir Brian Langstaff found the scandal could "largely have been avoided" and there was a "pervasive" cover-up to hide the truth.

From the 1970s, 30,000 people were "knowingly" infected with either HIV or hepatitis C because "those in authority did not put patient safety first", the inquiry's report said. Around 3,000 people died.

Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors - which represents 1,500 victims - said: "What we did say when we launched this action was that everything the government had done was wrong and not only was it wrong, they covered it up and lied about it.

"And of course, the report supports that view that the victims took all those years ago.

"So it's an action against the government for misfeasance in public office."

In a separate action, around 50 former pupils of Lord Mayor Treloar College in Hampshire, where boys with haemophilia were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 80s, are suing the specialist school for an alleged failure of its duty of care.

The report found children were used as "objects for research" while the risks of contracting hepatitis and HIV were ignored, and of the 122 pupils with haemophilia that attended the school between 1970 and 1987, only 30 are still alive.

Survivors, known as the Treloar's boys, said in a joint statement "there is nothing honourable about what happened" at the school, calling on former headmaster Alexander Macpherson to "do the right thing" and return his OBE.

Steve Nicholls, 57, from Farnham, Surrey, who attended the school between 1976 and 1983, said: "We fully accept that Treloar's is a unique case.

"We have been referred to as the darkest chapter within the Infected Blood Inquiry and for us to get recognition and justice for all the haemophiliac boys and their families we feel it is necessary to pursue it through the courts now."

He said Mr Macpherson - who was headmaster from 1974 to 1990 - was "responsible for his staff and the wellbeing of his pupils".

Rishi Sunak called the exploitation of children at Treloar's a source of "eternal shame" that is "hard to even comprehend" in a statement to the House of Commons earlier this week.

The prime minister issued a "wholehearted and unequivocal" apology to the victims of the biggest treatment disaster in the NHS, vowing that "comprehensive" compensation will be delivered "whatever it costs".