We need a Public Inquiry into the financing of Wakefield

The Fitness to Practice Panel at the General Medical Council has recently delivered the Findings of Fact following an investigation into allegations of “serious professional conduct” by Wakefield and two colleagues at the Royal Free Hospital.

Wakefield was one of the most highly- paid experts in the MMR 1 litigation to address a possible link between MMR/MR vaccines and Autism /IBD. He was contracted into this role by Mr Richard Barr, initially of Dawbarns solicitors, then Hodge Jones and Allen and later, Alexander Harris.

Charges 3 and 4 on the GMC charge sheet refer specifically to Wakefield’s role in supplying material to that Barr used to extract money from the Legal Services Commission. The Legal Aid Board, as it was then, awarded an initial £55,000 to the lawyers. Charge 4 (a) (i) was that Wakefield failed “to cause the legal Aid Board to be informed that investigations represented by the clinicians as being clinically indicated would be covered by NHS funding”. Charge 4(a)(ii) was that Wakefield “caused or permitted the money supplied by the Legal aid Board to be used for purposes other than those for which you said it was needed and for which it had been granted”

The findings on these two charges show that Wakefield acted dishonestly with funding while acting as an expert witness.

An investigation is needed into how the LSC was defrauded? Wakefield was hired by lawyers appointed by the LSC to represent the claimant children, and it is the lawyers who must explain how the money was purloined. What is the LSC doing to recover the money and ensure that such a fraud cannot be perpetrated again?

Lord Taverne asked about the squandering of £15m of public funding on the MMR-Autism IBD litigation in Parliament on 16th June 2004…“The Legal Aid Fund has been depleted and, indirectly, the access to justice for others who might have benefited from the proper use of the £15 million has been prejudiced”… “despite the lack of any evidence in support of them, in 1994 the legal Aid Board, as it was then, funded claims for compensation against the pharmaceutical companies”… “after 10 years and the expenditure of more than £15m, not surprisingly no evidence has emerged to provide a prima-facie case. Earlier this year the Legal Services Commission withdrew support and declared that the failure to find evidence meant that the case was very likely to fail. It also observed that aid should never have been granted, because the courts are not the place to prove new medical truths”

We need a Public Inquiry into how £15m was squandered on litigation that (a) by the LSC’s own admission should not have received legal aid, (b) was unable to provide a prima-facie case, (c) included the funding of a lead expert witness shown to have used the funds inappropriately, and (d) denied access to justice for non-ASD/IBD claims because Wakefield and the lawyers had walked away with the money.

Lord Taverne summed it up “it was a disgrace that legal aid was ever granted. The so-called research was, and was always likely to be a farce. None of the families benefited by a penny from the whole operation”

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