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Health correspondent Samantha Poling
"Solicitors say the system is unworkable"
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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Virus funding row help plea
Blood bag
Many contracted the virus from contaminated blood
Solicitors representing hepatitis C sufferers seeking compensation are calling for urgent political intervention in a row over funding.

BBC Scotland has learned the Scottish Legal Aid Board is refusing to finance claims from hundreds of haemophiliacs infected with the virus more than 20 years ago.

Lawyers representing claimants say they cannot take the cases forward without funding, but the Scottish Executive has refused to intervene.

More than 300 haemophiliacs in Scotland contracted the hepatitis C virus through contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

Solicitor, David Gordon
David Gordon: "We are being stonewalled"
It is nine years since it was discovered that the heat treatment used in blood product Factor VIII was inadequate to kill off hepatitis C.

Many of those who contracted the virus had hoped to receive funding to take forward their cases for compensation.

Unlike the English system, however, the Scottish Legal Aid Board restricts funding to each claimant.

This means their respective solicitors would have to carry the expense of the investigations and then try and claim the costs back.

Lawyers representing sufferers say the system is unworkable and means it is impossible for them to take forward any cases which are not being funded privately.

Scottish Legal Aid Board plaque
Lawyers say the system is unworkable
Bill Wright, who suffers from hepatitis C, said: "It seems quite extraordinary that those people who might qualify in England and Wales for legal aid, if you happen to live north of the border and have a similar case, you aren't being given the same sort of opportunities."

Solicitor David Gordon said: "Without having the initial funding to investigate and establish what they call probable cause, then we can't take it forward to get funding to actually go to court.

"Therefore, we are certainly being stonewalled to a certain extent by the authorities."

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Scotland
Hepatitis C rise continues
29 Jul 99 | Health
Hepatitis C tests win approval
08 Apr 99 | Medical notes
Blood: The risks of infection
01 Nov 99 | Health
Don't panic about Hepatitis C
14 Sep 99 | Scotland
Haemophilia sufferers meet minister
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