Senior partner, Herts.

Who? Des Collins, senior partner, Collins Solicitors, Herts.

Why is he in the news? Collins is legal adviser to more than 1,500 victims of the infected blood scandal (both those still alive and infected, and families who have lost members due to infection). On Monday, the Infected Blood Inquiry published its final report, detailing a ‘catalogue of failures’ that gave rise to an ‘avoidable disaster’.

Thoughts on the case: ‘The problems of the infected blood scandal may seem obvious and the solutions self-evident now, but it has been a hard slog to get to this point. The inquiry heard how victims and their families have been ill-treated for decades – first medically, then in terms of the cover-up which ensued, both at an NHS and government level. Inquiry chair Sir Brian Langstaff’s final report talks of closed ranks and even documents destroyed. This wasn’t simply a coterie of medical professionals making a bad call, he said, but a failing of the state at every level. It is the multiple layers involved, like an onion, that needed piercing to get to the truth. When you take on a wrong of that magnitude, it requires tenacity, creative thinking, sheer bloody-mindedness frankly, and a determination to just keep on going. The legal process has required infinite patience and a lot of faith. We were convinced that victims had been fobbed off and a case could be mounted on this back in 2017, which is when we lodged our GLO application. Action then switched to a public inquiry, which has taken six years, and we are still not quite there. The government’s fulsome apology this week was a very big deal as was their apparent commitment to pay whatever it takes to compensate victims. But we will be carefully reviewing the detail to come around delivery mechanisms for that because we’ve seen how other government compensation schemes, like Windrush, have been overly bureaucratic to the point of failing victims. That is why we need to continue supporting clients to ensure they get the compensation to which they are entitled.’

Dealing with the media: ‘The media have played a crucial role in shining a light on the wrongs victims experienced, the progress of the inquiry and the questions that needed asking. Appetite at an editorial level understandably waned during the pandemic, when there was a surfeit of health-related stories to choose from. However, in recent months the fourth estate’s willingness to keep the infected blood scandal high on the agenda has been notable, especially following the attention given to the Post Office and with a Tory party on its knees. This has undoubtedly helped pressure the government to finally smell the coffee and respond as they did to the inquiry report. The day that was published was crazy media-wise. I did 6am breakfast TV slots right through to evening shows. The fact I was willing to call for criminal prosecutions and stripping of peerages no doubt helped my airplay.’