Inquiry team with newly aquired documents
(Image via Infected Blood Inquiry on Twitter)
On January 18th 2019, the Infected Blood Inquiry team shared 3 photographs on Twitter with the following tweet,
We have today received, and Inquiry teams are now reviewing for relevance to our work, large volumes of material from
Over 1200 haemophiliacs were infected with HIV in the 1980s through contaminated blood products used in the treatment of a hereditary clotting disorders (a scandal described in Hansard in 1987 as an “avoidable injustice”). Many were also infected with hepatitis B and C in the 1970s/80s and years later exposed to new variant CJD. An Inquiry was announced to investigate this disaster which opened in September 2018 and also those infected through whole blood products, a separate case to haemophilia.
Images via Infected Blood Inquiry on Twitter
What is extraordinary is the number of boxes of documents that have suddenly materialized for use by the Inquiry given how much evidence campaigners were told had been lost or shredded. As I informed Anne Milton previously in writing in 2010,
In a letter dated 9th February 2004 Melanie Johnson wrote to Lord Morris (First Minister for Disabled and our campaign colleague of many years) that “all the information is in the public domain” and because of this the Government did not think a Public Inquiry was the way forward.
This was the repeated mantra of successive governments from the 1990s to deny campaigners a Public Inquiry. Back on February 20th 2001 when Alan Milburn was Secretary of State for Health, the Newcastle Journal reported a Government spokesperson as saying: “We do not believe anybody’s interests would be served by holding a public inquiry.”
Whilst government blocked a Public Inquiry for decades falsely claiming that all the information was in the public domain, witnesses such as doctors, blood policy advisers and other officials that could have shed light on what happened grew old and died and many victims that could have testified in an Inquiry succumbed to their infections with HIV and hepatitis C. Was that government’s intention?
The following questions now need to be answered…
- Why were campaigners denied a Public Inquiry for nearly 3 decades on the grounds that “all the information is in the public domain” as successive government officials repeatedly stated in writing in personal letters to victims when clearly this was not the case? Documents that were not in the public domain have continued to be unearthed contrary to government’s statement. This is usually due to the persistent efforts of campaigners as opposed to openess from government and is in addition to those released following a 30 year privacy rule.
- How many of these boxes of potential evidence were sent to Lord Archer of Sandwell when he requested government blood policy and other Department of Health (DOH), Cabinet Office and legal documents to be submitted to the Archer Inquiry in 2007? FOI request is currently being filed.
- Why were so few files of documents used to write the now disgraced and withdrawn DOH Self Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales: A Chronology from 1973 to 1971?
Back on the 2nd July 2017, my campaign colleague Colette Wintle submitted one of our many Freedom of Information (FOI) requests over the decades to the DOH. She asked the question,
“I would like to know who is the author of your publication Self Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales: A Chronology from 1973 to 1971 published in 2006 and what documents were used to support this document? Where can I contact the author please?”
The DOH Self -Sufficiency report was written in direct response to a dossier of documents sent to government jointly from the Newcastle Journal and my late husband Peter and I who set up Haemophilia Action UK in 1994 and the Bad Blood campaign with journalist Louella Houldcroft in 2000. The return of evidence was highlighted in past media articles. A recent FOI request revealed that government can no longer locate the dossier of documents we submitted.
Government also appear to have “lost” some of the legal letters sent on my direction in 2006 via a solicitor when I returned copies of key documents exchanged between lawyers for government and lawyers for haemophiliacs in the discovery phase of the 1991 HIV litigation. (Fortunately I kept copies). The return was on the grounds that none of these documents would be destroyed and all released into the public domain. Some were however were then withheld on the grounds of “commercial interest”.
These documents were later transferred to the National Archives, Kew where both the name of our lawyer was absent and any reference to my 2006 ESRC awarded research which had prompted the discovery and the fact that these documents originated from my husband’s litigation files was also conveniently withheld. It is of great concern to campaigners that some staff at the the National Archives do not appear to have the skills to reference correctly.
Back in 2006 government wrote to me highlighting that previously,
as you may be aware “over zealous civil servants” had already “inadvertently destroyed” many of their own copies of documents.
So I was returning documents to assist government with their collective memory loss regarding Contaminated Blood history and evidence.
To return to Colette’s question to the DOH, she received an answer on the 19th July 2017 which states,
I can confirm that the DH holds information relevant to your request.
The DH is the author of the report Self Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales: A Chronology from 1973 to 1971. The report is a review of documents dated from 1973 (when a decision was made to pursue self-sufficiency for England and Wales) to 1991 (when a validated screening test for the hepatitis C virus was introduced in the UK) carried out by officials on behalf of ministers.
Four files of official documents were used to support the report, and were released alongside it (A link is then provided).
Why were only four files used for the DOH report when so many papers still existed? The government claimed around 5,000 documents were utilized in total. Why won’t government name the individuals that wrote this report?
I was repeatedly told in letters from the DOH over the years that most documents no longer exist. Long standing campaigners believed some could have been destroyed but also that many were likely to still exist though withheld from campaigners and their lawyers.
This lack of detail and exclusion of reference to thousands of key documents, some which I believed to show alleged negligence was glaringly apparent when I critiqued the DOH report for my research dissertation in 2006 shortly after it was published. My critique of the report can be found on the Haemophilia Society website see following link,
The report was finally disgraced and withdrawn on my evidence in December 2017 see below,
“Contaminated Blood report full of lies”
Long standing campaigners have repeatedly been blocked from meetings with government including in the present day. Why? Because we know too much and some of the newer campaigners with less evidence and limited campaign experience are much easier to manipulate than those that have learnt the ways of government over decades and have the material to challenge.
Its not enough to unearth hidden documents though that is extremely important. In order to show an alleged “cover-up” by government it is increasingly important to trace what was said in writing and in meetings over several decades to Contaminated Blood campaigners. One has limited use without the other.
Also the Department of Health did not minute meetings for years but campaigners wrote up discussions and sent them to the DOH saying if they objected to the content and required corrections to reply and if they didn’t these would be taken as accepted.
Colette Wintle and I along with Peter Mossman (who founded the Manor House Group) also submitted many important documents to government through our own MPs and via the late and much missed Lord Morris of Manchester (First Minister for Persons with Disabilities and Mr Mossman’s MP) and to other Lords, for discussion and debate, this included videos.
Where is all that evidence now? Will it be unearthed as part of the boxes lodged with the Infected Blood Inquiry.
The Inquiry will struggle looking at documents in isolation. Evidence forms a giant jigsaw which must have a correct timeline and all the relevant pieces to match up and provide the wider picture. It will be of no use to victims to show half a picture or a distorted image. Campaigners fear that pieces of the jigsaw will be forced into other pieces that don’t fit to create an entirely new picture without anyone ever being held to account!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a former Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development (Distinction). Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.