Hepatitis C tribunal hopes to conclude in six weeks


THE tribunal of inquiry into the hepatitis C scandal expects its hearings to last a further three weeks, it indicates in an interim report. Hearings resume next Monday and a final report is expected by the end of February.

The interim report, prepared by the chairman and sole member of the tribunal, Mr Justice Finlay, offers no analysis and draws no conclusions from the evidence presented to date.

The Minister for Health had directed that such a report be presented to him within the first 20 days of the inquiry, dealing with the progress being made and the likely duration of proceedings.

To date the tribunal has sat for "five hours each full day" over "a period of 11 days between the 2nd and 17th of December" and has heard evidence from 29 witnesses. Statements from two further witnesses (patient X and a member of the Irish Kidney Association), who were granted anonymity, were read into the record. The Irish Kidney Association member also testified anonymously, from behind a screen.

Mr Justice Finlay pointed out that before the proceedings began on December 2nd, "the legal team for the tribunal considered all the documents which had been made available to them" and had interviewed witnesses. The team then circularised "other parties represented before the tribunal (with) a statement of facts seeking their agreement or dispute with such facts as itemised".

Mr Justice Finlay commented:

"This represented a very significant contribution to the expedition and clarity of the proceedings."

A similar exercise is being undertaken by the tribunal's legal team in preparation for the next stage of the inquiry, he said. He considers that this is "likely again to clarify and greatly expedite" the taking of the remaining evidence.