Campaigners welcome ‘historic’ contaminated blood ruling


Campaigners have won an “historic” legal challenge over the compensation paid by the government to disabled people affected by the NHS contaminated blood disaster.

A high court judge has told the government to reconsider its decision not to provide more generous compensation to those affected.

The ruling has been welcomed by people with haemophilia who were infected with contaminated NHS blood and blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, and have campaigned for fair compensation.

Nearly 2, 000 people with haemophilia have so far died as a result of being infected with hepatitis C and HIV.

The judicial review was brought by Andrew March, a member of TaintedBlood, the user-led group that campaigns for justice for those affected.

His lawyers argued that the government should have accepted the recommendation of an independent inquiry into the scandal, led by Lord Archer of Sandwell, that compensation should be at least as generous as that paid by the Irish government.

The UK government argued that the Irish government only paid higher levels of compensation because it accepted it had been at fault.

But, allowing the claim for judicial review, Mr Justice Holman concluded that the UK government was wrong and that the Irish compensation payments had been made on “compassionate” grounds.

He said the UK government “might” have reached a different decision if it had “correctly focussed on, and grappled with, the compassionate basis of Irish payments”.

But he warned campaigners of “false optimism”, as the allocation of resources was “entirely a matter for the government” and “they have said, in effect, that they cannot afford to pay more”.

A TaintedBlood spokeswoman welcomed the ruling and said the government would “now have to reconsider their original decision and re-make it based on a lawful and factual basis”.

She added: “This time we would ask that they refrain from taking such a cavalier attitude to such a crucial question.”

Lord [Alf] Morris, president of the Haemophilia Society, said it was “a historic decision” and “most warmly welcomed by the haemophilia community”.

And Matt Gregory, vice-chair of the Haemophilia Society, said: “This decision means that the government’s justification for its total failure to live up to the standards set by Ireland is now in tatters.

“A fair settlement for everyone affected by the disaster has been brought significantly closer today.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The department is aware of the decision reached in the judicial review, and will now consider the position.”

19 April 2010

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