The Inquiry Opens

Sir Brian Langstaff’s Opening Statement

Sir Brian Langstaff welcomed those present but expressed it would have been better if it was not necessary for everyone to have to come together in this way, if there had not been a need for the Inquiry in the first place.

He began by talking about the the sheer numbers of people who may have infected by contaminated blood and blood products and that the estimate may be over 25,000 people. He welcomed the presence of the press and called for them to cover the inquiry fairly and fearlessly.  Sir Brian recognised the bravery of those who had come forward to share their stories and the impact of reliving their experiences and he thanked people for doing this.

He went on to talk about the principles by which the Inquiry should be conducted:

To put people at the heart of the Inquiry.

The first three months will be taken up by statements from those infected and affected. There will also be an opportunity at the end of the hearings to hear from more people that we did not get an opportunity to hear from at the beginning. The hearings will take place with the affected and public as the focus and the hearings will be set up to reflect this. They will provide counselling services for those that need support. This will also be held in locations across the UK.

The Inquiry needs to be as fast as reasonable thoroughness can allow.

He is conscious of the continuing loss of life and the consequences of the length of time the inquiry might take. However, he is also mindful that people know this is the last chance for people to find the answers to the questions they seek.

There must be respect for all who take part in the Inquiry

He said that the Inquiry cannot be for the favoured few or the favoured many. All the people involved are entitled to be heard and he called for all participants to show respect as all voices are entitled to be heard.

The Inquiry must be open and transparent

There have been claims of a “cover up” therefore the Inquiry must ensure it is open and transparent at all times. They will include a range of experts and all documents will be available to core participants.

Independent of government

The Inquiry must be independent of government and not frightened to draw any conclusions from the investigation. It already has documents that it would not have due to the statutory nature of The Inquiry.

Listening to what is being said.

The Inquiry needs to listen to all evidence whether written or oral.

Jenni Richards  QC for the Inquiry

Jenni Richards QC for the Inquiry opened by talking about the Terms of Reference for The Inquiry which describes the matters to be investigated. It was stated that the Terms of Refence as submitted to the Cabinet Officer Minister David Lidington were accepted as submitted without alteration. She set out that there were 6 key themes to be investigated.

What happened and why?

The scale of what happened – how many were infected

The impact of what happened – mental and emotionally, clinically, as well as financially.

Key ethical issues around communication and information with regard to diagnosis, treatment and care.

The response of Government, the NHS and other bodies.

Whether there was a cover up and a lack of openness and candour.

It is expected that the Inquiry will learn over the next couple of days from opening statements the priorities from the Core Participants and they will develop an in-depth list of the elements of the Terms of Reference into which the Core Participants can input.

She then went on to discuss the scale of the Inquiry and that the team does not underestimate the undertaking they have committed to. The amount of people affected and the immense volume of documentation that needs to be reviewed.  She then went on to describe in detail the number of core participants and the organisations who are core participants which can be found on the website. They expected the number of core participants to rise with particular respect to the NHS Trusts Boards where Haemophilia Centres are located.

In talking about witness statements, they expected almost 2000 to be submitted and will be taking these themselves as well as asking legal teams to facilitate this process for those they represent. There will be clarity over the process of anonymity for those that want this prior to release of any statements.

You can follow the proceedings live via the Inquiry web site at www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk