At the recent joint SIBF/Haemophilia members’ meeting we were pleased to announce an even closer working relationship with our legal team of Thompsons Solicitors, Simon Di Rollo QC, and Jamie Dawson.
Thompsons Solicitors have launched a new website so that affected people in Scotland can sign up for regular updates on the contaminated blood and blood products campaigning work of the Scottish Infected Blood Forum, Haemophilia Scotland and Thompsons Solicitors.
You can register online at contaminatedbloodregister.co.uk or over the phone by calling 0800 081 0072.
Patrick McGuire of Thompsons said:
“The key to having the opportunity to have a positive impact upon a Public Inquiry is that there is strength in numbers. The Inquiries Act 2005 and the rules that govern public inquiries places a huge amount of power in the hands of the chairman of the public inquiry and their inquiry team. It is therefore essential that victims of a scandal forming the basis of a public inquiry are able to influence the choice of the chair, whether the chair sits alone or on panel and serves as full a role as possible in the public inquiry as core participants.
This can be achieved by a dedicated group of victims banding together under the support of organisations such as the Scottish Infected Blood Forum and Haemophilia Scotland, supported by strong and experienced solicitors like Thompsons Solicitors. There is no firm in the UK with more experience of public inquiries than Thompsons Solicitors Scotland. There have only been 5 public inquiries since the Inquiries Act 2005 and Thompsons have been involved in all 5 inquiries to a greater or lesser extent; having acted as Recognised Legal Representatives to the victims in 3 public inquiries.
The Scottish Infected Blood Forum, Haemophilia Scotland and Thompsons worked tirelessly on behalf of victims at the Penrose Inquiry. We have first-hand knowledge of the shortcomings of the public inquiry process. We also have experience of how public inquiries can be influenced to best serve the needs and expectations of victims. We already have a vast knowledge of the historical policy, decision making and documentation relating to the flaws at the heart of the contaminated blood scandal. All of this experience and knowledge leads us to the clear view that it is essential that there is a distinct and unique voice at the UK Contaminated Blood Scandal Public Inquiry for Scottish victims of the scandal. There will be some overlap in our interests with victims in other parts of the UK but there were will be other areas that there is a distinct Scottish voice.
Only Scottish victims, for example, can offer the experience of both the benefits and shortcomings of the Penrose Inquiry. Also in both the years before and after devolution there were decisions made in relation to the Scottish Health service that differed from the approach taken in the rest of the UK. For the benefit of Scottish victims and victims across the UK it is essential that Scottish victims have their own voice.
Together Scottish victims, the Scottish Infected Blood Forum, Haemophilia Scotland and Thompsons Solicitors can make a distinctly Scottish case to Ministers about whether the chairman sit alone or whether it should be a panel led Inquiry. Our experience tells us that it must be a panel. Only together can we give a distinct Scottish voice as to the type of people who should serve on the panel. It is only by banding together in that way that, securing core participant status, they can benefit from the statutory powers handed to core participants including:
- Having greater access to information and evidence
- Making opening and closing speeches
- Cross examining witnesses
- Being legally represented at the Inquiry
- Having access to the report before it is published
And through those statutory powers we can have a positive impact on the fate and direction of the Inquiry for victims throughout Scotland.”
The Scottish Government also supports SIBF and Haemophilia Scotland becoming Core Participants in the UK wide Public Inquiry. Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison said:
“We also feel that key stakeholder representative organisations, such as Haemophilia Scotland and the Scottish Infected Blood Forum, should also be core participants.”
Please register online at contaminatedbloodregister.co.uk or over the phone by calling 0800 081 0072.