Justice Secretary apologises for botched review of vaginal mesh scandal

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The Justice Secretary has apologised to the victims of the botched review into the transvaginal mesh scandal while also facing calls to open a public inquiry into the murder of Craig McClelland.

Mesh implant procedures were temporarily banned in Scotland after incidents where the net-like implant was found to erode and disintegrate, damaging organs, vaginal walls and, in some cases, have been linked to deaths.

A bungled investigation into the scandal lasting three years incensed many victims and was branded a “whitewash” by politicians, so a review into public inquiries was commissioned by the Scottish Government.

Professor Alison Britton, of Glasgow Caledonian University, found that the original mesh review was “ill-conceived, thoughtlessly structured and poorly executed”.

Responding to the report in Holyrood, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I am deeply, deeply sorry for the suffering of those women affected by the mesh has been compounded by what went wrong with the process of the review.

“I am determined that future inquiries and reviews learn the necessary lessons and ensure those who have suffered harm and the country at large are confident that a fearless, independent and robust investigation has taken place.”

The report by Prof Britton cleared any individual of deliberate wrongdoing, saying: “We were satisfied that no one involved in the mesh review was acting in bad faith.”

It added: “We found no evidence to support the claim that evidence was deliberately concealed.”

In September, a pause on all trans-vaginal mesh procedures was announced, and Mr Yousaf promised: “The temporary halt will be lifted only once all the restricted-use protocol is developed and in place.”

“It will be informed by new evidence-based guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and will ensure that in future trans-vaginal mesh will only be used in the most limited of circumstances, subject to rigorous process,” he added.

Mr Yousaf also announced that the Scottish Government would use the report to create guidance to be be issued in situations where a review or inquiry is being considered in Scotland.

However, Labour’s Neil Findlay MSP – who has been an active campaigner on behalf of the women affected – said that the Cabinet Secretary’s intentions did not go far enough.

He said: “I think today’s statement is pretty pathetic. We don’t want Government-written guidance, what we want is the full recommendations – all of them – of Professor Britton’s report implemented.”

Speaking after the statement on the conduct of reviews and inquiries, Mr Findlay added: “The mesh review was a complete whitewash.

“The Britton review was passed to the Government in the summer and still the Government could not say how many of the 46 recommendations it will accept.

“It is clear that Professor Britton’s report has caused discomfort for ministers, but they should implement it in its entirety.

“Anything less is an insult to the mesh victims.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr quoted Mr Yousaf’s comments about full public inquiries sometimes being the only way to restore people’s trust, and urged him to launch an inquiry into the murder of Craig McClelland.

The Paisley father-of-three was stabbed to death by a killer with 16 previous convictions who was initially released from prison on curfew with electronic tag, but was at liberty illegaly when he killed Mr McClelland.

James Wright, 25, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder in June this year.

Craig McClelland death
Craig McClelland, who was stabbed in Paisley (Police Scotland/PA)

He added that he has written to the family with responses to their questions, with answers from the Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government.

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “While nothing can take away their grief, the Cabinet Secretary has met the McClelland family on a number of occasions to listen to their concerns and to help assemble information from relevant agencies outlining a better understanding of the circumstances of Craig’s death, while also ensuring wider lessons are learned and improvements made.

“The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and Police Scotland, as well as the Scottish Government, have accepted all 37 recommendations made by the two independent Inspectorate reviews that have already examined the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme, including looking at the circumstances of James Wright’s release and subsequent breach of HDC.

“The Cabinet Secretary has now written to Craig’s family providing further information from SPS and Police Scotland in direct response to questions the family had, which acknowledges where issues have been identified to them in light of this case and what actions were taken.

“We are now focused on ensuring there is real and demonstrable progress in implementing the independent recommendations, which is why the Cabinet Secretary has asked both Inspectorates to review progress next spring.”

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