Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lord Hutton should NOT have been chosen

It wasn't only, in my view, totally wrong to have set up an Inquiry on 18 July 2003 it was also wrong to have chosen Lord Hutton to chair it.  This post will be concerned with the selection of Hutton.

The choice of Hutton was down to Lord Falconer, close friend and former flatmate of Tony Blair.  On the 18th July Falconer was Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for the Department of Community Affairs.  Thanks to the industry of Dr Watt investigating this matter it now seems that the newly created Department wasn't yet a legal entity on that date.  However there seems no doubt about Falconer being the Lord Chancellor!

During 2004 the whole matter of inquiries was being investigated by the "Select Committee on Public Administration".   With Hutton having published his report on 28 January it comes as no surprise that both he and Falconer appeared as witnesses in front of the committee.  Falconer had his say on the 25th of May and here he explains his choice of Hutton as Chairman:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: ...... After some thought and discussion, Lord Hutton was a name that emerged quite quickly as a suitable person to do it. Lord Hutton's particular qualities that made him suitable were that he was a senior judge of unimpeachable standing, he had been a successful Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, he looked completely beyond reproach and he had the right skills to investigate—the skills coming from being a senior judge—a series of facts leading up to somebody's death.
  Q174 Chairman: You are not suggesting, by the way, that there are some judges of impeachable standing, are you?
  Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No.
  Q175 Chairman: I thought not! 

Falconer's justification here is typical political spin ... he is trying to suggest I think that Hutton had particular qualities to set him apart whereas there were other senior judges who could have been equally suitable.  But it's Falconer's economy with the truth that is particularly bothersome.  The following are reasons which I suggest should have debarred Hutton from chairing the Inquiry:
  • Lord Hutton was a judge in Northern Ireland at the time of "The Troubles"In coming to many controversial decisions it can fairly be seen that he needed constant protection.  Even now that he is retired he might still require protection although I don't know whether that is so.  What it meant in simplistic language is that somebody had to be prepared to take a bullet on his behalf.  Regarding the death of Dr Kelly I think he might have been reluctant to look at any possible involvement or negligence by MI5, MI6 or Special Branch.
  • Following the shootings on "Bloody Sunday" (30 January 1972) there were inquests on the dead (no avoiding inquests back then!).  Representing the Ministry of Defence was one Brian Hutton.  The behaviour of personnel in the Ministry of Defence prior to Dr Kelly's death was obviously going to be at the forefront of the Inquiry.  It's difficult to see that there wasn't a potential conflict of interest with Hutton in effect having been previously employed by the MoD.
  • The Widgery Tribunal, like the Hutton Inquiry, set up in double quick time, largely exonerated the British soldiers.  At the subsequent inquests the coroner, Major Hubert O'Neill, had said there had been no justification for the soldiers to open fire.  He said:
     'These people may have been taking part in a parade that was banned but I do not think that justifies the firing of live rounds indiscriminately.'  Hutton didn't mince his words in responding to the coroner: "It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion,"   When it came to respect, for  coroners, or rather lack of it, Hutton certainly had previous!


No comments:

Post a Comment