Contaminated Blood: Litigation evidence was blocked and compensation denied to haemophiliacs in 1995 and again in the late 1990s

Except from a letter from Graham Ross solicitor to Chester Legal Services Commission (10th May, 2000) regarding key evidence not seen as part of an appeal to continue legal aid funding

The one thing successive governments have always provided to haemophiliacs infected with deadly viruses through their factor concentrate treatment in the 1970s and 80s is endless excuses not to compensate and in doing so made sure it divided the haemophilia community by virus, HIV and hepatitus C. This was despite the fact that ALL infected haemophiliacs fitted the very specific criteria of the Special Status (Case) on which HIV haemophiliacs were originally given an “ex-gratia” payment in the 1991 litigation where damning evidence was kept out of court.

In the mid 1990s, long standing campaigners, Carol Grayson and Colette Wintle also battled the national Haemophilia Society that rejected Grayson’s written call for “compensation on a parity with Eire” (a term she initiated) and instead much to their disgust championed a mere “hardship fund”. It was only through extreme pressure from committed activists that the Society eventually gave in to their demands and joined them calling for compensation.

Eire paid out compensation to haemophiliacs in 1996 on the grounds of “extraordinary suffering” at court levels but without putting those infected and affected through the trauma of going to court and without admitting legal liability. Evidence submitted to the Infected Blood Inquiry which began in 2018 chaired by Sir Brian Langstaff shows the case for compensation is arguably stronger than Eire, as since 1996, UK cases have been accepted legally by US pharma companies in the 2nd generation “dumped treatment” cases which include Wintle and Grayson’s late husband Peter Longstaff. The following is an old media article from 1999 to which Grayson and Longstaff’s former solicitor Graham Ross contributed, as did their friend and supporter, Lord Morris of Manchester.

Back in 1999, the Observer reported the following,

The society’s president, former Labour Minister and veteran campaigner Lord Morris, said: ‘In none of the campaigns I have been closely involved in over 34 years in Parliament – even thalidomide and the campaign for statutory recognition of dyslexia – have I had so strong a sense that no campaigning should have been necessary to right so obvious a wrong.’

As the Opposition, Labour supported the campaign. An early-day motion in November 1995 calling for compensation for hepatitis C victims was signed by 233 MPs, including 16 Labour MPs who are now Ministers.

Among them were the new Health Secretary Alan Milburn, Health Minister John Denham, Sports Minister Kate Hoey, Trade Ministers Helen Liddell and Kim Howells, and Foreign Office Ministers Peter Hain and John Battle.

Unfortunately for the Haemophilia Society, the Labour Party appears to have had a change of heart. Last year the then Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, rejected the calls for compensation, saying that he considered the ‘circumstances were different’ for those haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C and those infected with HIV. He said there was no proof the NHS had acted negligently.

For many victims this is hard to believe. Indeed, The Observer has uncovered scientific papers in leading medical journals dating back to the early Seventies warning that Factor 8 would lead to the transmission of hepatitis C – then known as ‘non Hep A-non Hep B’.

The main reason was that, since each phial of Factor 8 contained protein from thousands of donors, it was more likely to transmit blood diseases. This was particularly true in the US, where donors were given payment. The scandal of the so-called ‘Skid Row’ donors – many were drug users, alcoholics and prostitutes – was uncovered by World in Action in 1975.

The problem for British haemophiliacs is that the poor state of the British blood services and the growing demand for Factor 8 meant a lot of blood products used in Britain were imported from the US.

An article written by doctors in the Lancet in 1975 gave a warning that in a three-month period in 1974, nine out of 18 patients at the Bournemouth haemophilia centre became infected with hepatitis C.

Their conclusion then was: ‘Commercial Factor 8 should be reserved for the treatment of life-threatening bleeds,’ and ‘should be reserved for severely affected haemophiliacs’. So why were those like Ken Holmes, with mild haemophilia, prescribed Factor 8? The World Health Organisation also warned the Labour Government of the time that, if the UK practice did not change, British haemophiliacs risked a hepatitis ‘epidemic’.

The Observer has uncovered evidence that a treatment known to kill hepatitis in the blood was available in the early Seventies. A distinguished US professor, Dr Frank Putnam, believes the knowledge that heating the blood would kill hepatitis was well known more than 30 years ago. For this reason, Germany ensured in 1979 that all its blood was heat-treated. Had this process been introduced in Britain at that time, hundreds of lives would have been saved.

Graham Ross is the solicitor who represented HIV victims and is now working with those suffering from hepatitis C. In the HIV claim, Ross won a Court of Appeal decision to gain access to confidential government documents. He is forbidden from making the contents of these documents public but has said that they indicate ‘severe neglect’.

Arguments similar to Ross’s have won support overseas. Governments in Ireland, Canada and Italy are now accepting their responsibility and are compensating haemophiliacs who have contracted hepatitis C through state-owned blood laboratories.

In just over two weeks’ time, the Haemophilia Society will lay 113 white lilies at 10 Downing Street to re- mind the Prime Minister of those innocent British victims who have lost their lives to hepatitis C.

The facts

Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver.

A master of disguise, it mutates too quickly for the immune system to fight it. There is no cure .

An initial infection is rarely noticed by the patient but in the first six months there is a 15 per cent chance of beating it. It can take 20 years before the symptoms – fatigue, jaundice, nausea, stomach, muscle and joint pains and vision loss – start to show. Liver damage can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure, or cancer. It is exacerbated by alcohol and stress. The virus can also be contracted through unsterile body piercing, tattooing, needle sharing and straws used to snort cocaine.


It is interesting to note that Alan Milburn (former Health Secretary) mentioned in the Observer article who gave evidence under oath to the Infected Blood Inquiry denied ever encountering Grayson in Newcastle over 2 decades ago despite her handing him a bundle of evidence on Contaminated Blood. A friend of Grayson who was present on Newcastle Quayside when this occurred, wrote a formal statement submitted to Sir Brian Langstaff confirming she witnessed the event.

Several years AFTER the conclusion of the 1991 HIV litigation, Ross made the couple aware of the Putnam evidence stated in the Observer and other evidence not considered. Grayson highlighted this both to the Archer Inquiry and The Infected Blood Inquiry showing that Chester Legal Services had refused to look at new evidence not only important for the original 1991 HIV litigation but also for a legal case launched by Grayson’s friend Peter Mossman (infected with hepatitis C) where Grayson was assisting his then QC with key documents. Papers in Grayson’s possession show a bitter battle with Chester where evidence was blocked from consideration. After years of trying to get these documents in court but repeatedly prevented from doing so, legal aid was withdrawn from Mossman’s case and the evidence suppressed.

The legal firm representing Mossman in Liverpool was later disbanded. A review of the case by a new firm of solicitors followed some time later when they took over. The firm wrote to Mossman (who has since died) but left his legal papers to Grayson and Wintle highlighting that he had a good chance of winning his case. This was the same case that had been launched regarding his hepatitis C infection way back in 1989 and where legal aid was withdrawn years later without all key evidence being seen or considered.

Government must now finally compensate and without further delay. The views of Kate Burt, current CEO of the Haemophilia Society now supporting Grayson, Wintle and Positive Women were reported in the Newcastle Chronicle, 15th May 2023, as follows,

Ms Burt went on to highlight the culpability – the Government has admitted “wrong was done” – of the authorities, adding: “Today, 40 years after the contaminated blood crisis emerged, this government is quite rightly facing a substantial compensation bill. This is not the fault of those who were infected and their families, not should it be used as an excuse for underfunding key services.

“Had the government acted quickly to acknowledge the mistakes that were made, the emotional and financial cost of the scandal would have been greatly reduced.”

Grayson stated,

Long standing campaigners have accessed, collected and shared with the Inquiry enough damning evidence showing alleged negligence, serious safety violations and potentially criminal actions regarding harm done to haemophiliacs in the Contaminated Blood scandal. We call on the government to cease making matters worse by delaying the inevitable, government must compensate those infected and affected at a substantial level for harm caused and the subsequent cover-up which only served to further damage an already traumatized haemophilia community. It is now time also for goverment to apologise for allowing Longstaff, Wintle and others to be given “dumped” US factor concentrates that violated safety regulations here and abroad and was never withdrawn from use despite very clear warnings of the dangers this treatment presented.

She added,

The campaign work by females has been further hampered by endless misogyny from the British government and some media cancelling out women who are multi awarded for their research and activism, whilst opening the door to some men who appeared at the elventh hour, who plagiarised and rehashed evidence we discovered years ago, gave false timelines to the press and thus deceiving the High Court who may be called upon to rely on this material in any forthcoming legal case.

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 was a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. 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”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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