Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire, Senior Partner of Thompsons Solicitors has welcomed a ruling by Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, that gives Scottish Ministers just five weeks to announce details of a public inquiry into the deaths of two people from Hepatitis C contracted through NHS blood products.
Mr Maguire who represents two of the victims’ relatives, Roseleen Kennedy and Jean Black said: “We welcome Lord Mackay’s decision to give the Scottish Ministers five weeks to announce details of the public inquiry, appoint the Judge, decide the terms of reference, and the starting date.
“One of the things we want to avoid is this issue dragging on indefinitely. “But it also crucial that the inquiry can seek out the truth where ever that may be.
“That means it must have the powers to access information and documents from London-based UK Departments and to summons their officials and Westminster Ministers if required.
“Once Scottish Ministers set up the inquiry, appoint the Judge, determine its terms of reference and powers, and once the UK Government’s position on compliance with the inquiry is made clear, we will consider if we need to go back to Lord Mackay on the basis that the scope and powers of the inquiry are not enough.”
Thompsons took Scottish Ministers to court last year to try to force the authorities to hold an inquiry into how Roseleen Kennedy’s mother Eileen O'Hara, and Jean Black’s husband, Rev David Black contracted the virus while in NHS care.
After a judge ruled in favour of the families early last year, the Scottish Government promised a public inquiry.
However, eight months later, no date has been set.Thompsons recently petitioned Lord Mackay seeking to ensure the promised inquiry would have wide ranging powers, including access to Westminster documents, officials and Ministers. In a supplementary opinion on the case, Lord Mackay said Lady Cosgrove who had previously agreed to Chair the inquiry was no longer in a position to take on the role.Lord Mackay said he would fix a further hearing on the matter – to take place in about four or five weeks.
And he said that if ministers had not made decisions on the issues in question by then he would “expect to be addressed on behalf of the respondents about the further actions which each of them propose to take to ensure that the convention rights of the petitioners under Article 2 are going to be complied with”.
Lord Mackay added that both families were entitled to have an “independent, effective and reasonably prompt inquiry” into the deaths.