Councillor's hopes for justice at contaminated blood inquiry

The Carbery family
The Carbery family

A councillor from the borough says she hopes a high-profile public inquiry getting under way will provide justice for the victims of the contaminated blood scandal.

Coun Paula Wakefield is attending the opening of the high-profile probe into the issue, which follows decades of work by her and other campaigners, in London today (Monday).

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Her father Russell Carbery, from Astley, was one of hundreds of people who died after contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C having been given Factor VIII blood products.

Campaigners say these items were bought from the USA and blood was taken from prisons and people with drug addictions in desperate straits who got money by going to blood plasma banks.

The Wigan Council lead member for equalities and domestic abuse, who represents Astley Mosley Common in the chamber, is one of more than 600 people represented by solicitors at this week’s opening proceedings and has also asked to address the inquiry directly.

She said the scandal was a result of deliberate actions and hopes the inquiry will hold individuals accountable.

Coun Wakefield said: “This is a huge milestone. For over 30 years we have been campaigning and being constantly told by the Government that nothing more could be done.

“We’re now getting a public inquiry and hopefully the evidence will come out to show the Government was warned but they continued to give infected blood products. There has then been a cover-up, basically.

“It just feels like we’re finally being heard. People will finally know the truth.

“We want justice for my dad, my mum and the thousands of other people who have been affected by this scandal.

“Nobody has ever been held accountable for it and that needs to happen because the state murdered these people.”

Three days of initial proceedings began today with a commemoration of the victims of infected blood before Sir Brian Langstaff, chairing the inquiry, and counsel Jenni Richards QC made opening statements.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) and on Wednesday legal representatives for those affected will speak along with those who do not have solicitors acting for them.

It is intended that the inquiry will begin hearing evidence shortly after Easter next year, with a vast amount of work to do before then gathering witness statements and analysing a mountain of documents.

Coun Wakefield, who was just 13 when her dad died at the age of 39, got back into campaigning a few years ago when the push for an inquiry moved onto social media.

She described the harrowing effect the scandal had on her family.

She said: “When he was still alive we knew people had been affected and we started campaigning when he died, but it got to a certain point where my mum didn’t want to be as involved.

“She felt like she kept reliving it. My dad was a haemophiliac and a lot of his friends had the condition too, so they were dying one by one because they were all infected.

“My mum was only in her 30s and she had to keep going to friends’ funerals. It all became too much.”

For more information visit www.infectedbloodinquiry.org.uk