Victims of the infected blood scandal hugged, cried and cheered the chairman of the inquiry after their decades-long campaign for justice.

Infected Blood Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff criticised a “catalogue of failures” that led to avoidable deaths in a statement at Central Hall in Westminster.

The 2,527-page report could not have been more critical. It highlighted a failure to act over risks linked to contaminated blood – some of which were known before the NHS was established in 1948.

It identified a slowness of the response to the scandal - for instance, it was apparent by mid-1982 that there was a risk the cause of Aids could be transmitted by blood and blood products but the government failed to take steps to reduce that risk.

There were delays informing people about their infections – sometimes for years – and they were told in “insensitive” and “inappropriate” ways and patients and the wider public were given false reassurance.

Deliberate attempts were made to conceal the disaster, including evidence of Whitehall officials destroying documents, the inquiry found.

Sir Brian received a standing ovation and rapturous applause before delivering his remarks.

Campaigners and victims were among the audience, with some dressed in red T-shirts bearing slogans including “Infected blood, dying for justice.”

Before his statement in central London, the inquiry chairman asked those present to look around the hall and applaud everyone who contributed to the report and shared their stories.

“That’s where the material comes from, you,” he said.

The audience applauded Sir Brian’s calls for an apology from the Government to those affected. Rishi Sunak has issued a “wholehearted and unequivocal” apology to the victims of the biggest treatment disaster in the NHS, vowing that “comprehensive” compensation will be delivered “whatever it costs”.

After his speech, audience members embraced and wiped away tears as they held candles and watched a choir perform while images of victims were projected on to a screen on the stage.

Some cried and applauded as they watched videos of those affected speak about their experiences and what action they would like to see from the Government moving forward.

An unnamed male victim in the video said: “This is the worst disaster that has ever happened, and it’s not over.”

Another interviewee said: “We were given a sentence for committing no crimes.”

The Northern Echo launched its Fight for Justice campaign in 1986 to highlight how the Government had failed to act quickly enough to prevent contaminated blood from being supplied to haemophiliacs.   

The Prime Minister was right when he said it was “a day of shame for the British state”. For all the apologies and compensation, nothing can bring back those who have lost their lives.

Changes must be made to end the pattern arising out of a number of public inquiries in which innocent victims have to fight for decades just to be believed.

It has been one of the largest UK public inquiries, with some 374 people having given oral evidence and the inquiry having received more than 5,000 witness statements and reviewed more than 100,000 documents.

No one should have to go through the trauma of this again.