Thursday, 5 July 2012

Hutton's Opening Statement at the Inquiry

Lord Hutton's Opening Statement on the morning of 1st August 2003 can be read here:

At the time Lord Falconer set up the Inquiry he was wearing two hats - not only was he Lord Chancellor but he was Secretary of State of the newly formed Department of Constitutional Affairs.  Following the obligatory one minute's silence in memory of Dr Kelly Hutton makes it clear that Falconer was acting as Secretary of State in asking him to chair the Inquiry.  Hutton stated his terms of reference: Urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr KellyAlmost immediately Hutton points out that he has to proceed with expedition and that he is in no doubt that it is in the public interest for him to do so.

This urgency would be seen I think to serve two useful purposes:
  1. It would take some of the heat off Blair.  It would demonstrate that he was concerned about, and proactive in, getting to the bottom of the reason why Dr Kelly "committed suicide".
  2. There would have been some concern I suggest about the possibility of an inquest taking evidence under oath before the Inquiry got to the point of witness examination.  As it turned out a little known clause in the Coroners Act 1988 was used to kick the inquest into the long grass and this gave Hutton a clear run with his inquiry.
Hutton stated that he was 'given information by Dr Kelly's widow', a subject I covered in my last post.  It was clear from his statement that he would be looking at Dr Kelly's interaction with certain journalists and more particularly with Andrew Gilligan on 22 May 2003, a week before the infamous broadcast on the BBC "Today" programme.  Also Dr Kelly's conversations with Newsnight reporter Susan Watts and with Gavin Hewitt.  There would be a strong focus on the row that developed between the Government and the BBC.  Events in the period immediately preceding Dr Kelly's death, the finding of the body and investigation thereafter would also come under scrutiny.

So on 1st August Hutton marked out the territory.  Clearly he was already associating the death with the September 2002 dossier, the 45 minute claim and the broadcasts of some journalists.  All these things are interesting in their own way but how could he be sure at the outset that Dr Kelly's death was the sad culmination of these various events? 

Regarding medical evidence Hutton displays some puzzlement about the electrodes that were on Dr Kelly's chest: this a subject for a later post.

The fact that Hutton seems to have believed in the suicide hypothesis from the word go is evidenced by him referring to part of Dr Hunt's wild speculation on this.  This piece of speculation stands out like a sore thumb in the Opening Statement, a statement which should adhere to the known evidence.  My take on this can be read here: 

Following the statement from Lord Hutton Geoffrey Robertson QC made a submission on behalf of several broadcasting organisations for there to be limited TV coverage of some of the witnesses giving their testimony.  Hutton gave a ruling on this on 5 August which was in the negative, the details of the ruling are here:    

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