Blood scandal widow welcomes new Government announcement on legal help
A widow whose husband died following the contaminated blood scandal has welcomed the news that the Government will pay for the legal advice of those affected by the tragedy.
Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith confirmed in the Commons that funds would be provided for families seeking legal advice on the terms of reference of a public inquiry.
She also apologised for a letter sent to victims which initially refused them legal funding, and compared the contaminated blood inquiry to the Grenfell Tower fire probe.
Theresa May announced last year that a “full statutory inquiry” would be carried out into the scandal that left at least 2,400 people dead.
The decision to launch the inquiry was made after victims and families expressed strong views over the involvement of the Department of Health.
About 7,500 people, many with inherited bleeding disorder haemophilia, were given blood products infected with hepatitis C and HIV in the 1970s and 80s.
The UK imported supplies of the clotting agent Factor VIII from the US, some of which turned out to be infected - and much of the plasma used to make the product came from donors like prison inmates in the US, who sold their blood.
Widow, campaigner and former Hartlepool woman Carol Grayson said she welcomed the announcement that legal aid will be granted.
Carol, 58, has spent decades uncovering evidence and campaigning after she lost her haemophiliac husband Peter Longstaff in 2005 after he contracted HIV and hepatitis C from contaminated blood.
She wrote an MA thesis at Sunderland University on the global blood trade, which won an award, and which traced infected donors to Arkansas prisons.
“It is essential that we have legal help from the inquiry,” said Carol.
“The Government sometimes tends to speak first and think later but they have come to the right decision.
“Our tragedy isn’t as visible as something like Grenfell, but a lot more people have died from what happened.
“We are very pleased that they have clarified their position on this.”
Carol added that she is “optimistic” that she and fellow campaigners will eventually be able to secure compensation.
“We’ve had a conference call with the Government lawyer from the inquiry and we’re also due to have one with the chairperson,” she said.
“I’ve been campaigning for years and it just consumes you.
“There is no possibility of moving on when you are stuck in the middle of this.
“We want the truth, resolution and to make sure there are safety measures in place for the future and also that the survivors and bereaved families are taken care of.”