Department willing to pay Haemophiliac Society's legal costsTuesday 14 December 1999 19.14
The Department of Health has told the Tribunal investigating the infection of haemophiliacs with contaminated blood products that it is prepared to pay the Haemophilia Society's legal costs. Earlier, the Tribunal Chair, Judge Alison Lindsay, said that she was precluded from granting the society an interim order for costs, and also dismissed several applications for changes in procedures.
Sixty-two haemophiliacs have now died from Hepatitis C and HIV, which they contracted by unknowingly injecting themselves with contaminated blood clotting agents. The Lindsay Tribunal, which is due to hold public hearings in the New Year, is charged with establishing how and why this happened and also investigating the response of state agencies.
Last week, Counsel for the Irish Haemophilia Society, Martin Hayden, junior counsel, submitted that both the Department of Health and the Blood Transfusion Service Board were paying their legal teams from central funds on an ongoing basis, and argued the Society should therefore be awarded funds by the Tribunal. However, Judge Lindsay today ruled that she was precluded from awarded costs until the Tribunal had concluded. Dan Herbert, Senior Counsel for the Department of Health then said that the Government was prepared to consider paying the costs, following discussions, although it was not legally obliged to.
Judge Lindsay also ruled against several applications from the society for a change in procedures including allowing a prioritisation of witnesses so that those infected with HIV and Hep-C could testify first. In her judgement, Judge Lindsay said that the tribunal had to decide on the priority, however, any application for individuals to give evidence on the basis of their state of health would be treated favourably. Counsel for the society, Martin Hayden, said, however, that the nature of the infections would pose a problem.
The Society said that people with HIV can die very suddenly and so it is unhappy with the Judge's ruling. The Society's executive will now consider its position. Rosemary Daly of the executive said she expected that the Society would be making an application before Christmas for all of her members with infection to be able to testify first.