"smacks of game playing" says Inquiry as The Haemophilia Society may withhold documents
The Infected Blood Inquiry has today issued legal determinations ordering The Haemophilia Society to produce the documents it holds relevant to the Inquiry.
The determinations by Sir Brian Langstaff (Chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry) reveal some shocking facts:
1 - The Haemophilia Society has NOT waived legal privilege. Something that even the Department of Health has now committed to do. This means the Society may seek to withhold documents from the Inquiry on these grounds.
Raymond Bradley acting for The Haemophilia Society told the Inquiry inter-alia that:
The Society needs to review the documents for legal professional privilege: it has chosen not to waive it.
2 - The Inquiry has endured a drawn-out debacle with The Haemophilia Society in trying to obtain the documentation it holds. At some point along the line the Society’s former CEO / Secretary Liz Carroll resigned in what appears to be suspicious circumstances and was replaced by Barry Flynn. Sir Brian Langstaff said:
Waiting until notices were on the cusp of the deadline before suggesting that they had been addressed to Ms Carroll in error, because she was an employee, rather than the Secretary to whom such requests should have been made, and then when it was pointed out that she was the Secretary arguing (again, just on the cusp of a deadline) that nonetheless she was not the appropriate recipient of a notice, but instead either the Society or Mr Flynn should be, smacks of game playing.
Speaking on the timing of the former CEO’s resignation, the Chair of the Inquiry said:
I observe it would appear that Ms Carroll waited until almost the last moment before expiry of the deadline before resigning. This tends to be confirmed by the fact that in the morning of 18th January 2019 Ms Carroll was listed as the Secretary to the Society, but a resignation notice appeared around 11am
These events followed threats from the Inquiry of Criminal Proceedings in 2018 if The Haemophilia Society refused to co-operate. Sir Brian said that:
The Inquiry Secretary wished to remind Ms Carroll of the deadline, to help ensure compliance, and avoid Ms Carroll being subject to criminal proceedings.
Summarising the whole sequence The Haemophilia Society have been reminded in the Section 21 notice issued by Sir Brian Langstaff today that:
I regard the powers I have under section 21 of the Act, coupled with the threat of criminal sanction if information or documentation required by such a notice is not forthcoming, as important.
The Haemophilia Society must now produce it’s scanned documentation without delay and in any case all documentation including 7 boxes of paper files by 11th February 2019.
The full determinations can be found on the Infected Blood Inquiry website and The Haemophilia Society’s response can be found on their website.