Bahai News -- Guardian - Your inquisitor awaits, Mr Blair

Your inquisitor awaits, Mr Blair

Hutton will quiz ministers, advisers and media

Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday August 2, 2003
The Guardian

Lord Hutton served notice on the government yesterday, from Tony Blair down, that he was determined to discover the circumstances surrounding the death of the scientist, David Kelly and that ministers and officials would be subjected to close examination about their roles in the affair.

The law lord, who opened proceedings with a minute's silence out of respect for what he described as Dr Kelly's tragic death, shed new light on the state of the senior scientist's health, his actions as he was in the act of apparently committing suicide and his views about the reporting of BBC defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan.

Lord Hutton made it clear he intended to dig deep when he called to his inquiry Mr Blair, Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, Alastair Campbell, the prime minister's communications chief, political advisers, officials from the Ministry of Defence and other departments, Thames Valley police, a psychiatrist and a member of Dr Kelly's Baha'i faith.

Witnesses would also include BBC journalists, editors, and senior executives. Dr Kelly's widow, Janice, had also agreed to testify. Lord Hutton said yesterday that she had already provided him with information.

The judge referred to "detailed discussions" between officials and ministers in the MoD and elsewhere in Whitehall after Dr Kelly volunteered that he had met Gilligan.

The journalist's report on Radio 4 that Downing Street had "sexed up" the government's September dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction against the wishes of the intelligence services and his subsequent article in the Mail on Sunday naming Mr Campbell, provoked the events which Lord Hutton's inquiry would investigate.

The judge warned yesterday that he intended to hear "detailed evidence" of discussions between officials in the MoD "and any other persons" in government relating to Dr Kelly. He said: "I will also wish to see produced at the inquiry copies of the letters, memoranda, reports, and other documents," which passed between the MoD and the rest of Whitehall.

Lord Hutton disclosed that a postmortem examination by a Home Office pathologist found that Dr Kelly had removed his watch "to facilitate access to the wrist".

The pathologist, Nicholas Hunt, noted: "The removal of the watch in this way and indeed the removal of the spectacles are features pointing towards this being an act of self-harm." Dr Kelly was also found to have had a "significant degree of coronary artery disease". The postmortem report said four electrocardiogram electrode pads were found on his chest. This may have been a device provided by doctors to establish if he had an abnormal heartbeat.

Gilligan has said Dr Kelly was the main source for his story which cast doubt on the the September dossier, including its foreword signed by Mr Blair, that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.

Dr Kelly was sceptical about the claim as he made clear to the Commons foreign affairs committee on July 15, two days before he died. But he questioned whether he could have been Gilligan's main source given that the journalist had also claimed that Mr Campbell had personally intervened to harden up the dossier. Yesterday, Lord Hutton revealed that Dr Kelly queried whether he could have been the BBC's main source in a letter to his MoD line manager. He said the overall character of the BBC report was "quite different" to the meeting he had and it had either been "considerably embellished" or there had been other sources.

Lord Hutton also gave fresh indications of the pressure Dr Kelly was under. The MoD's personnel director, Richard Hatfield, wrote to the ministry's senior adviser on chemical and biological weapons describing his behaviour as having "fallen well short of the standard that he would have expected from a civil servant of his standing and experience". Mr Hatfield added, that formal disciplinary proceedings would be inappropriate.

Dr Kelly travelled to the West Country to get out of the way, it seemed, of the events which led to his death on July 17.

The pressure facing Dr Kelly and his family was reflected yesterday in an appeal to Lord Hutton from their lawyer, Stephen Gompertz QC. He urged the judge not to allow his inquiry to be televised.

"The family wish to see everyone involved in the inquiry treated in a dignified manner," Mr Gompertz said.

"Family members are concerned that televising these proceedings will turn their private loss into the nation's entertainment."

Earlier, Geoffrey Robertson QC, acting for ITN and Sky, accused newspapers of bias and said most people got their news from the television and trusted it more. Lord Hutton has said only the opening and closing sessions of the inquiry would be televised.

He said he may allow cross-examination by lawyers of witnesses who had previously given evidence in a second stage of the inquiry which he hoped would end in six weeks. Others in Whitehall predicted it would go on longer.

The inquiry was adjourned until August 11.

The shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said: "It will clearly go deep and in going deep I hope it will also go wide enough to begin to give everybody a clearer idea of the way in which the government handled the presentation of intelligence material."

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "The questions which are already beginning to arise... inevitably point to some kind of outcome which will allow a much better informed judgment of the efficacy upon which this war was conducted."

©Copyright 2003, Guardian (UK)

Following is the URL to the original story. The site may have removed or archived this story. URL: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/kelly/story/0,13747,1011058,00.html


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