A Yorkshire law firm has been appointed to act on behalf of leading campaigners “fighting for the truth” over what is being called the biggest treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.
The Infected Blood Inquiry begins in London on Monday and Leeds-headquartered Milners solicitors has been hired to represent the interests of several victims and their families.
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 and Head of Litigation 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.
“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 two 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 last year and is being chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff.
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.
Milners, based at Whitehall Waterfront in Leeds city centre, also has offices at Harrogate and Pontefract and is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.