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Wigan councillor breaks down at blood scandal inquiry

Paula Wakefield
Paula Wakefield

A Wigan councillor has spoken of her hope for the contaminated blood inquiry making the truth public after attending the opening.

Paula Wakefield described the emotional three days of testimony which opened the high-profile investigation into the Factor VIII product in London.

Hundreds of people died after having being given the blood products, with Coun Wakefield’s father Russell Carbery one of those who passed away after contracting HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Coun Wakefield, who represents Astley Mosley Common in the chamber and is also the town hall’s lead member for equalities and domestic abuse, spoke of hearing facts and representations about the scandal in a public setting after years of campaigning.

She said: “I still feel like I’m getting over it, to be honest. You think you are prepared for it but when you get there it’s so surreal. The inquiry is actually happening, it’s big and it’s public. All the questions we’ve always asked are being asked by the QCs.

“It was really emotional. The first day they put pictures up on the big screen and my dad was included. I knew it was coming and I was holding it back but as soon as my dad’s picture came up that was it.

“It was just massive because there were a few pictures at first and then loads more. It just showed the enormity of the scandal, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg because they were the victims they managed to get pictures of.

“A lot of people are still reserving judgement but we came away hopeful this inquiry is going to get to the truth. They’re taking everything seriously and they’ve got the power to force people to attend and give evidence.”

Coun Wakefield spoke of one horrifying moment during the QCs’ opening remarks which shone a light on the evidence the inquiry will be considering.

She said: “There was a letter to haemophiliac societies about Factor VIII. They had been doing tests on chimpanzees but couldn’t do more with it because it wasn’t economically viable so they said the best way forward would be to move to test it on humans.

“They wanted to use patients who hadn’t been previously treated so they could see how quickly it spread, basically. Everybody in the room gasped when this was read out.”

The chair of the inquiry and his team will now spend months poring over a mountain of evidence and testimony, with further witness statements expected to be gathered. Formal proceedings with witnesses taking the stand begin next Easter.