Trust between citizens and state destroyed in infected blood scandal

After decades of denial, gaslighting and a chilling cover-up of the plight that befell thousands of victims of the infected blood scandal, finally an apology that sought to begin to make amends on this “day of shame” for the British state.

“I want to speak directly to victims and their families,” said Rishi Sunak. “I want to make a whole-hearted and unequivocal apology for this terrible injustice.

“I am truly sorry.”

It was an apology on behalf of every government stretching back to the 1970s.

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He also made “two solemn promises” at the dispatch box – comprehensive compensation will be paid and the report will be acted on.

“We must fundamentally rebalance the system so we finally address this pattern so familiar from other inquiries like Hillsborough, where innocent victims have to fight for decades just to be believed,” said the prime minister.

This was the absolute right response. The infected bloods scandal is one of the most horrifying failures of the state to its citizens as – to quote inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff – people were “failed, not once but repeatedly, by their doctors, by the bodies [the NHS and others] responsible for the safety of their treatment, and by their governments”.

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Sunak apologises over infected blood scandal

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There has been untold suffering caused by the very people and institutions that are meant to treat you. That in itself is unconscionable, that it was then covered up in a “subtle, pervasive and chilling way” by the NHS and government – two institutions that should be in the service of citizens – is devastating.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, looking up to address families in the Commons’ gallery, spoke to this betrayal as he told them: “Politics itself has failed you.

“That failure applies to all parties, including my own. There is only one word. Sorry.”

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This was, for once, a very unpolitical day. All sides aligned, the apology fulsome and heartfelt, and agreement that whoever wins the next general election, compensation will be paid.

Echoing the prime minister, Sir Keir said: “Lessons must be learnt to make sure nothing like this happens again. We must restore the sense that this is a country that can rectify injustice, particularly when carried out by institutions of the state.”

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Starmer: ‘There was systemic failure’

This is a scandal, an injustice, a cover-up that spanned decades, affected 30,000 victims and wreaked devastation on their lives and families.

Monday was the beginning of the end of a fight for justice that has been long fought and hard won. Politicians now must pay the compensation and bring in the reforms.

This scandal was one in which trust between citizens and the state wasn’t just badly broken, it was destroyed.

The report, apology and promise of reparations is perhaps the beginning of trying to both right the wrongs endured by the blood scandal victims, and to begin to address the crisis of trust in government from an electorate that seems to have lost faith in the political class.

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