The slow response to the infected blood scandal means that many of those responsible will never be held to account, victims of the disaster have said.

The chances of corporate manslaughter charges are “extremely remote”, according to lawyers.

The Infected Blood Inquiry on Monday published its final report on the scandal that saw thousands of patients infected with deadly viruses from contaminated blood products between the 1970s and 1990s.

More than 3,000 people have died as a result and survivors have battled for decades to uncover the truth.

Clive Smith, chairman of The Haemophilia Society and also a criminal barrister, told a press conference in Westminster: “One of the aspects that, sadly, the delay has caused is the fact that there are doctors out there who should have been prosecuted for manslaughter, gross negligence manslaughter, doctors who were testing their patients for HIV without consent, not telling them about their infections.

“Those people should have been in the dock for gross negligence manslaughter.

“Sadly, because of the delay, that’s one of the consequences that so many people will not see justice as a result.”

Andy Evans, chairman of the Tainted Blood campaign group, said: “This has gone on for so long now that people that were around at the time will be very hard to track down if they’re even still alive.

“Justice delayed really is, in this case, justice denied.”

Public inquiries are prohibited from making any recommendations about prosecutions but other countries affected by the scandal have seen ministers brought before the courts.

In the UK, corporate manslaughter prosecutions are less likely to happen, according to Ben Harrison, head of public law at Milners, which represents core participants in the inquiry.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

He told the PA news agency: “First and foremost, corporate manslaughter is governed by 2007 legislation which does not apply retrospectively to a time when Crown Immunity existed for any such offence; the time at which so many were tragically and fatally infected.

“I think the chances of any form of corporate manslaughter investigation taking place are extremely remote.

“Things are less clear-cut in terms of individual offences, for instance, whether assaults have been committed, but it will take some time before we are able to establish this.

“We must also bear in mind that the actions which led to the infection of our clients took place decades ago and many of those who may have been guilty of an offence are now likely dead or unfit to stand trial.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said there has been a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale”.

He told PA: “I said in 2017, in my final speech to Parliament, that this was a criminal cover-up on an industrial scale and I believe Sir Brian’s report backs that up, and there now must be serious redress and reform off the back of this report.”

Asked if he would like to see prosecutions, he said: “Yes, I would, I believe there has to be full accountability.

“The report confirms that there was a major cover-up and there has to be accountability for that. So I’ll certainly go through the report in detail and we’ll be pursuing that very issue, but of course it’s got to be accompanied with a full apology, full compensation immediately for everybody and major reform of the way this country is run.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued an apology in the House of Commons on Monday, with ministers preparing to set out the compensation package – expected to be more than £10 billion – on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“The ball is now in the Government’s court,” Mr Smith said.

“It will depend on the Government response and until we have a full Government response in terms of compensation and all the other recommendations, it is only then we will be able to judge whether or not this inquiry’s been successful or not.”