HIV blood professor was paid in jail

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A doctor who served a two-year jail term in France has received a salary of pounds 37,000 throughout his sentence from Cambridge University out of public funds provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The university is still paying Jean-Pierre Allain - convicted of knowingly distributing HIV-contaminated blood to French haemophiliacs - an ex-gratia payment equivalent to a professor's salary, Sir David Williams, the Vice Chancellor, said yesterday.

Professor Allain was suspended on full pay in October 1992 from his job as director of the East Anglian Regional Blood Transfusion Service after his conviction. Until July 1993 his salary was paid by the NHS but was supposedly stopped following inquiries by the Independent. Instead, the university decided to continue ex-gratia payments because of the ``exceptional circumstances'' surrounding the conviction, Sir David said. ``He is after all a professor of the university.'' Asked whether it was unusual to continue paying the salary of someone in jail, he said: ``The circumstances of this case were unprecedented.''

Professor Allain was convicted of distributing blood products contaminated with HIV in 1985, when he was head of research and development at the French national blood transfusion service. He claimed he was made a scapegoat and did not get a fair trial. He has just left prison. The university supports Professor Allain's contention that he warned his superiors that donated blood carried the risk of contamination with HIV.

Sir David said: ``He was exposed to proceedings that were without precedent.'' The university was not questioning the legal proceedings in France but took the view that ex gratia payments were reasonable.

The National Blood Authority, which is now responsible for Professor Allain's NHS post as honorary head of a regional transfusion service, did not know yesterday that he was still being paid. A spokeswoman said: ``He certainly is not being paid. That is 100 per cent certain.''

Although his salary was funded by the NHS, it was paid through Cambridge University, where he is Professor of Transfusion Medicine. Following his conviction the old East Anglian Regional Health Authority set up an inquiry, which concluded that there was no reason why he was unfit to continue holding his post.

(Photograph omitted)