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Hampstead and Highgate victims of blood scandal say new inquiry ‘must not be another white-wash’

PUBLISHED: 19:57 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 20:39 08 February 2018

Colette Wintle said that the new public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal 'must not be another white-wash'. Picture: Supplied by Colette Wintle

Colette Wintle said that the new public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal 'must not be another white-wash'. Picture: Supplied by Colette Wintle

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Victims of the contaminated blood disaster from Hampstead and Highgate have said a new public inquiry into the scandal must not be “another white-wash”.

Factor VIII blood products infected thousands of haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitus C during the contamniated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s. Picture: Factor 8 Campaign UKFactor VIII blood products infected thousands of haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitus C during the contamniated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s. Picture: Factor 8 Campaign UK

They spoke as the government today announced it has appointed high court judge Mr Justice Langstaff to lead the new probe into the notorious health scandal.

Campaigners accused ministers of delays over the length of time it has taken to put a chairman in place since Prime Minister Theresa May first announced the public inquiry in July last year.

A spokesman for campaign group Tainted Blood said: “Whilst welcoming today’s announcement we also remember the 49 contaminated blood victims who have died since the announcement of the intention to hold an inquiry seven months ago.

“We sincerely hope that Sir Brian keeps urgency in mind moving forward, so that as many people as possible survive to see the inquiry’s resolution.”

Mark Ward was 14 when he was told he had been infected with HIV at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Polly HancockMark Ward was 14 when he was told he had been infected with HIV at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock

Mr Justice Langstaff promised a “thorough examination of the evidence” behind the major scandal which saw thousands of haemophiliacs and others die after being given tainted blood or blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

The blood was infected with HIV and hepatitis C, and tragically around 2,400 people have so far lost their lives due to the viruses they contracted.

Some 315 haemophilia patients at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead were infected through treatment.

One of them Colette Wintle, who contracted hepatitis C, said: “This is the third inquiry into the disaster and I’m hoping that this is not going to be another white-wash. I hope there will be more transparency and that the chair will work very closely with the victims.”

Highgate husband and wife Dan and Della Hirsch, whose son Nick died from hepatitis C contracted from blood products. Picture: Polly HancockHighgate husband and wife Dan and Della Hirsch, whose son Nick died from hepatitis C contracted from blood products. Picture: Polly Hancock

Former flight attendant Mark Ward, who was given the devastating news that he had HIV as a 14-year-old patient at the hospital, has called for the inquiry’s terms of reference to be broad and encompass the disaster’s global scale.

“Mr Justice Langstaff has commented that he will be forensic in looking into the evidence and I definitely welcome that but I think it’s important that in looking at this tragedy we also recognise this didn’t just happen in the UK,” he said.

Welcoming the progress, Highgate mother Della Hirsch, whose 36-year-old son Nick died from hep C in 2012, said: “I’m delighted that it is moving forward and I hope he’s a good man and that he will provide the justice and insight that we all need.”

Mr Justice Langstaff will consult people affected by the disaster on the inquiry’s terms of reference before taking up the role full time on May 1.

Young father Nick Hirsch, from Highgate, died aged 36 in 2012. Picture: Supplied by Nick's familyYoung father Nick Hirsch, from Highgate, died aged 36 in 2012. Picture: Supplied by Nick's family

“Providing infected blood and plasma products to patients truly deserves to be called a major scandal,” he said.

“I intend, through this inquiry, to be able to provide both some well-needed answers to the victims and their families, and recommend steps to ensure that its like will never happen again.”

The inquiry appointment was announced by Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, who said: “I am determined that this independent inquiry will give victims and their families the answers they have spent decades waiting for.”

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