Police to look 'very carefully' at corporate manslaughter charges for infected blood scandal, says minister

Police to look 'very carefully' at corporate manslaughter charges for infected blood scandal, says minister

Police will look “very carefully” into whether corporate manslaughter charges should be brought in the infected blood scandal, says a Cabinet minister.

Work and Pension Secretary Mel Stride stressed that justice for the victims was “robustly” following up on the findings of a damning report by the Infected Blood Inquiry into the biggest treatment scandal in NHS history.

He gave an “assurance” that this would include whether there should be criminal action against those responsible for the disaster which saw more than 3,000 people dying after getting infections including HIV and Hepatitis from contaminated blood products and transfusions.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has called for potential corporate manslaughter action against Whitehall departments, with others demanding such steps being taken against doctors involved in the scandal.

Asked about this, Mr Stride told GB News: “Justice is following up robustly on the findings of the report.

“In the case of corporate manslaughter and criminal charges and proceedings then clearly that is a matter for the police and for the Crown Prosecution Service.

“But these matters will be looked at very carefully, of that I can absolutely assure you.”

Lord Saville, a former Supreme Court justice who chaired the Bloody Sunday inquiry, said there could be “grounds for prosecution” in the infected blood scandal.

Asked if criminal action was conceivable, he told Times Radio: “Well, it’s certainly conceivable.

“It depends on the circumstances of the particular case.

“But if people have deliberately set about to lie or to try and present the situation as different from what they know or believe is the case, well, then I can see there could well be grounds for prosecution.”

Max Hill, who left his role as Director of Public Prosecutions in October, told Times Radio there was no time limit regarding how far back criminal prosecutions could go.

"The short answer is, if the evidence is there, there is no bar to an investigation and a prosecution," he said.

"Now, sadly, corporate manslaughter came into force as a criminal offence on April 6, 2008 - much too late to deal with this case.

"However, there are other criminal offences which pre-date corporate manslaughter, where individuals have a duty of care and (if) they breached that duty in a gross way - that's a legal term - they can be held liable.

"Gross negligence manslaughter comes to my mind and also misconduct in public office.

"It's not for me to know whether either of those are feasible in these circumstances, but the criminal law does provide answers such as this even decades after the event."

The inquiry’s 2,500-page report told in harrowing detail how more than 30,000 people were victims of the scandal between the 1970s and early 1990s, with their families also affected.

Cabinet Office Minister John Glen was set to give a statement to the Commons on Tuesday about compensation for the victims which was expected to total around £10 billion.

It is believed to be based on a “tariff” system where people will get compensation depending on the impact of the diseases that they got from infected blood.

Rishi Sunak issued a “wholehearted and unequivocal” apology to the victims of the infected blood scandal, saying that the publication of the report into the disaster was “a day of shame for the British state”.

The Infected Blood Inquiry identified a “catalogue of systemic, collective and individual failures” that amounted to a “calamity”.

He promised to pay “comprehensive compensation” to those affected and infected by the scandal.

“Whatever it costs to deliver this scheme, we will pay it,” Mr Sunak said.

Members of the infected blood community have said that they expect the Government is likely to set out how much compensation will be paid, simplified into a few categories, or tariffs.

This is likely to come under five main categories: injury, social impact, autonomy, care and financial loss.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has also apologised to victims of the scandal on behalf of the health service in England, adding that people “put their trust in the care they got from the NHS over many years, and they were badly let down”.

After a decades-long battle for justice, campaigners welcomed the probe’s recommendations but lamented the fact delays meant many of those responsible would never be held to account.

Corporate manslaughter charges are “extremely” unlikely, according to lawyers, despite calls from former health secretary and now Greater Manchester Mayor Mr Burnham for a full consideration of prosecutions against Whitehall departments.

Clive Smith, chairman of The Haemophilia Society and also a criminal barrister, said: “One of the aspects that, sadly, the delay has caused is the fact that there are doctors out there who should have been prosecuted for manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, doctors who were testing their patients for HIV without consent, not telling them about their infections.

“Those people should have been in the dock for gross negligence manslaughter.

“Sadly, because of the delay, that’s one of the consequences that so many people will not see justice as a result.”

The report found that the infected blood scandal “could largely have been avoided” and there was a “pervasive” cover-up to hide the truth.

Deliberate attempts were made to cover up and conceal the disaster, including evidence of Whitehall officials destroying documents, the seven-year probe found.

Patients were knowingly exposed to unacceptable risks of infection.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff said “the scale of what happened is horrifying”, and stressing that survivors were left battling for decades to uncover the truth.

He said the “level of suffering is difficult to comprehend” and that the harms done to people have been compounded by the reaction of successive governments, the NHS and the medical profession.

Ministers failed to act in order to save face and expense, the inquiry said, with the current Government criticised for failing to act immediately on recommendations around compensation which were made last year.

Sir Brian said the contaminated blood disaster is “still happening” because patients who suffered “life-shattering” infections continue to die every week.

The former high court judge said: “What I have found is that disaster was no accident.

“People put their trust in doctors and the government to keep them safe and that trust was betrayed.

“Then the government compounded that agony by telling them that nothing wrong had been done, that they’d had the best available treatment and that as soon as tests were available they were introduced and both of those statements were untrue.

“That’s why what I’m recommending is that compensation must be paid now and I have made various other recommendations to help make the future of the NHS better and treatment safer.”