After decades of silence, victims of the infected blood scandal dare to hope for justice

Every morning a bell was rung to announce the start of proceedings. But it may just as well have been tolling for the dead. At least 4,689 haemophiliacs were given contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s, and contracted HIV and/or hepatitis C. More than half have since died. Then there are the thousands infected by blood transfusions.

On the steps of Church House, next to Westminster Cathedral, groups of gnarled middle-aged men stood like war veterans. And in a way they were. For decades, they fought the government over the right to a UK-wide public inquiry. This scandal was by no means unique to Britain. In America it was known as the Haemophilia Holocaust and the companies that supplied infected products paid out millions in out-of-court settlements. In countries such as France and Japan, politicians and drug company bosses were convicted of negligence and even manslaughter. In Britain, nobody has been held responsible. In many other countries, including Ireland, those affected were compensated for loss of loved ones, income, quality of life. Here victims were forced to beg for handouts to keep going.

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