The Inquiry began the week by hearing evidence from Peter Stevens. Mr Stevens began his evidence by discussing his background and how he had been very involved with the various financial support schemes for victims of contaminated blood.
The Inquiry heard how Mr Stevens had been a trustee of the Macfarlane Trust between 1988-1992 and then became Chair of the organisation from 1996-2006. Mr Stevens was also the Chair of the Eileen trust from 1999-2017 and a trustee of the Caxton Fund from 2011-2013.
Ms Richards QC told the Inquiry that she would be focussing on Mr Stevens’ involvement with the Macfarlane Trust.
The Inquiry heard that Mr Stevens became involved with the Macfarlane Trust as he had two sons with haemophilia. One of whom contracted HIV and passed away whilst his other son contracted hepatitis C.
Mr Stevens detailed his responsibilities during his first period at the Macfarlane Trust. He stated he was involved in decision-making surrounding policies, beneficiary issues and regularly attended trustee meetings. Mr Stevens told the Inquiry that when the Macfarlane Trust was established in 1996, its initial purpose was to distribute ex-gratia payments of £20,000 to victims that had contracted HIV. He also made reference to the fact there had been some misunderstanding from the government in terms of what the trust was able to achieve. Mr Stevens explained how sometimes it was forgotten that the Macfarlane Trust was set up by the government and was therefore answerable to the government. Mr Stevens explained that the trust could only make payments when it was allocated the funds to do by the government. This said Mr Stevens became a cause of tension between the government and the trust as the government also wanted a say in how this money was spent.
Ms Richards QC then asked Mr Stevens about the conditions attached to payments made by the Macfarlane Trust. Particularly, Ms Richards QC made reference to a waiver beneficiaries were asked to sign before receiving any payments. Mr Stevens acknowledged the waiver and said this was in the form of an undertaking in which the beneficiary agreed not to bring proceedings against any government body in respect of Factor VIII and IX administered prior to 1990. Mr Stevens acknowledged that many beneficiaries that signed the waiver were not aware of the risk of contracting hepatitis C from contaminated blood.
Mr Stevens then asked questions about payments from the trust to widows. He explained how it was the Trusts’ intention for infected widows to receive the same payments as beneficiaries. Mr Stevens explained that if the trust had more financial resources then they would have been able to provide more support to non-infected widows.
Ms Richards QC then went onto ask Mr Stevens about his return to the Macfarlane Trust in the mid 1990s. He stated that when he returned payments from the government became sporadic and unpredictable. He explained that it became particularly difficult to budget from year to year and it was therefore necessary to hold back some funds to ensure the trust was prepared for all scenarios.