'Possible case for corporate manslaughter charges' over infected blood scandal

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham - Credit: Yui Mok/PA

A former health secretary said corporate manslaughter charges may be merited over the infected blood scandal.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, who ran the Department of Health in 2009-10, was speaking at the Infected Blood Inquiry.

The inquiry is investigating how thousands, including Royal Free Hospital patients, contracted Hepatitis C and/or HIV from infected blood products during the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Burnam told the hearing on Friday: ‘I think the Department of Health and the bodies for which it is responsible have been grossly negligent of the safety of the haemophilia community in this country.

"And I would add to that, from there, I would say there is even the possibility that the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) should be asked to consider charges of corporate manslaughter."

He told the inquiry he is certain "criminal acts" of withholding diagnoses and medical records took place, although he said he does not know "whether there was any instruction ever given" to staff. He said it justified the phrase  "criminal cover up".

Mr Burnham has written to the candidates for the Conservative leadership, asking them to commit to arranging interim compensation payments to victims – some of whom are critically ill – if they become prime minister.

On July 11-12, the inquiry heard from Sir Robert Francis QC, who had been commissioned by the government to make recommendations on compensation. He said payments should and could be made quickly, irrespective of the inquiry's conclusions.

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On Friday, the chair of the inquiry, Sir Brian Langstaff, made a statement on compensation, saying: "Fairness demands that I allow core participants – especially, on this point, governmental and public bodies – the opportunity to make submissions to me about whether I should exercise my powers to make a recommendation that as soon as is practicable interim payments should be made and, if so, the scope of those interim payments."

He gave a deadline for submissions of 5pm on Monday, July 25.

Asked about the call for submissions on interim payments, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The infected blood tragedy should never have happened and the ongoing public inquiry was set up to get to the truth and give families the answers they deserve. We are committed to co-operating fully with the inquiry.”