Mike McCarthy, who contracted hepatitis
C from tainted blood, went further, saying the judgment was a
"miscarriage of justice." He called on the Crown attorney to
appeal the acquittals.
But David Scott, a lawyer for a senior
Health Canada official who was acquitted, said "these charges
should never have been laid. It was a mistake from the beginning
and people's lives have been brutally affected by them."
Eddie Greenspan, lawyer for the former
head of the Red Cross blood program, described the ruling as
"absolute vindication and complete exoneration" on a scale that
is rarely seen. "The bottom line is that there was no criminal
conduct by anyone who was in charge. The bottom line is that
Canada was well served by people who made these decisions."
"How that could possibly be considered
reasonable behaviour is beyond us."
Defence lawyers said that, given the
exoneration, they will seek to have the legal fees of the
accused reimbursed and may even launch lawsuits for malicious
The case before the court related to one
specific incident in the larger tainted-blood tragedy — the
infection of seven young B.C. hemophiliacs with HIV-AIDS.
They all used Factorate, a blood product
manufactured by Armour, a pharmaceutical company based in
The drug was heat-treated to kill
pathogens like HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, but the process
did not work.
The criminal charges allege that the
accused knew the product, which was distributed between July,
1986, and December, 1987, was potentially tainted and failed to
act to prevent its distribution and to warn recipients of the
Judge Benotto said that, to secure a
conviction of criminal negligence, the Crown needed to
demonstrate that the accused showed a wanton and reckless
disregard for the lives and safety of users. On the common
nuisance charge, the Crown needed to show that their actions
deviated from what a reasonable person would do in the
The judge said that, on the contrary,
the "evidence taken as a whole establishes a thoughtful, careful
and considered course of conduct" on the part of the accused.
But Judge Benotto went further, saying
that a mere acquittal would be to damn the accused with faint
praise. "The allegations of criminal conduct on the part of
these men and this corporation were not only unsupported by the
evidence, they were disproved."
The accused were Roger Perrault, former
director of the Canadian Red Cross Society's blood-transfusion
service; John Furesz, former director of the Bureau of Biologics
at Health Canada; Wark Boucher, former chief of the
blood-products division of the Bureau of Biologics; Michael
Rodell, former vice-president of scientific and regulatory
affairs at Armour; and the company itself.
They all faced four counts each of
criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count each of
common nuisance endangering the public. Armour faced an
additional charge under the Food and Drug Act for failing to
give notice of a product deficiency.
Dr. Perrault faces six more criminal
charges in another case slated for trial in Hamilton. Defence
lawyers hinted that, based on Monday's ruling, they will ask for
those charges to be dismissed.
Victims of tainted blood said the
acquittals were, more than anything, an indictment of the
Canadian justice system.
"How do you, in Canada, bring to justice
people who have caused the deaths of hundreds, thousands of
people?" Beaty, who contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood,
said Monday as he choked back tears. "Canadians should not sleep
too well tonight because our justice system has been found
In November, 2002, the RCMP laid 32
criminal charges against four individuals, a pharmaceutical
company and the Red Cross in connection with tainted blood.
The Red Cross, as an organization,
pleaded guilty to distributing contaminated blood in violation
of the Food and Drug Act. It was fined $5,000 and six criminal
charges were dropped.