School at centre of infected blood scandal may face criminal prosecution

A colour image of the school, a 19th Century building in grounds with rose beds in flower
Treloar's: It is thought 75 ex-pupils have died after receiving infected blood

The school at the centre of the infected blood scandal could face criminal prosecution following the inquiry’s final report on Monday.

The report is widely expected to make reference to actions at Lord Mayor Treloar College, a specialist school for disabled young people, in the 1970s and 80s which could amount to criminality.

Solicitors acting for ex-pupils believe Sir Brian Langstaff, the inquiry chair, may refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a criminal investigation of the school, now known colloquially as Treloar’s.

Des Collins, senior partner at Collins Solicitors, said that “on the balance of probabilities” he thinks there will be a referral to the CPS for at least one criminal prosecution in the infected blood inquiry’s final report on Monday.

Treloar’s, which is still operational in Hampshire, had an on-site NHS haemophilia centre in the 1970s and 80s which treated pupils with the genetic blood-clotting deficiency.

It is thought that 75 ex-pupils with the condition have died from viral diseases – hepatitis or HIV – contracted from haemophilia medicines such as Factor VIII while at the school.

Doctors at the Hampshire school used the boys to investigate the danger posed by drugs that had been made from tainted blood donations imported from the US. The experiments were done without the consent of the boys or their parents.

The Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report will be published on Monday and an entire chapter of its 2,000 pages is expected to be dedicated to Treloar’s.

Mr Nicolls wears his glasses on his head and has a colourful tie
Steve Nicholls, a former pupil, helped start a campaign group - Mark Thomas/Shutterstock

Sir Brian has the ability to refer any evidence of criminality unearthed by the inquiry and published in the report to the CPS.

Treloar’s Boys, a group of four ex-pupils and survivors who have long campaigned for justice, launched a group litigation order (GLO) against the school in 2022, which is running separately to a GLO against the Department for Health which began in 2017.

Mr Collins is representing the group. He told the Telegraph: “As a result of Monday’s report, and depending on what the judge says, there could be enough for a referral to the CPS immediately.”

He added: “There are two ways it could be referred to the CPS. One is as a result of Monday’s report, and that would be a referral from Sir Brian. But if he doesn’t, then it could come in a couple of years time or a year’s time, from the judge who deals with the GLO.”

GLOs are civil cases and the Treloar’s claim is expected to be on the scale of the Post Office Alan Bates claim, which won £58 million in damages.

Mr Collins said: “The Treloar’s GLO is there as a weapon which we can use if we have to, but it would be much quicker, as far as the Boys are concerned, if there was a referral [in the report].”

The school is the defendant in the GLO against Treloar’s and any payout would be private money from the insurer – but criminal charges could be levelled against past trustees.

A still from a film showing the centre, a low brick building
Treloar's had its own on-site NHS haemophilia centre

Steve Nicholls, one of the Treloar’s Boys, was infected with Hepatitis C at the school and is now seeking justice for the 75 who have died and their families. He is considering criminal prosecutions.

“If the Government does not cover all the parents and children of all the haemophiliac boys that went to Treloar’s, we will take the GLO all the way if necessary,” he told The Telegraph.

“We believe there were crimes committed within the four walls of Treloar’s. If that is within the report, and there’s enough evidence for a criminal prosecution, I think we would support it.”

The GLO against the Department of Health holds the Secretary of State as the defendant, and ex-ministers could be at risk of criminal charges such as corporate manslaughter, Mr Collins said.

He added: “There could be custodial sentences. The likelihood of prison is remote. It is more likely to be an unlimited fine, but there’s no guarantee that there won’t be a custodial sentence.

“A manslaughter charge, whether it’s gross negligence or corporate, would be against the people who were there at the time. The claim for damages would be against the people who are there now.

“The criminal side refers back to what happened at the time but the financial and civil side of it carries on as we are at the moment.”

Mr Collins added that many of the victims want to see a public prosecution to get true justice. “They feel that just because you’re big and important, and it’s a long time ago, it is not sufficient reason not to prosecute,” he told The Telegraph.

Mr Collins also believes that the evidence seen by the inquiry, and the scope of the report, means a CPS referral will probably be in the report when it is published on Monday.

He added: “If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d have said it’s unlikely. But the more I’ve looked at it over the past two or three weeks, I think on the balance of probabilities, yes, there will be a referral.”

Treloar’s College said in a previous statement: “Treloar’s staff, students and their families, together placed their trust in the treatment and advice given out by the NHS clinic, and the doctors and medical professionals who ran it in the 1970s and 80s.

“It has been shocking to discover, through the ongoing public inquiry, that some of our students may have received treatment there which was unsafe or experimental, and that the NHS did not always obtain sufficient consent.”

The statement added: “They all deserve answers from the ongoing public inquiry, and we strongly support the urgent need to accelerate compensation payments from the Government.”