Thursday, 12 July 2012

Mr Gardiner's practical problems on 16 March

On 28 January 2004 Lord Hutton delivered his reportOne outcome of this was the fact that Mr Gardiner had to consider whether there were exceptional circumstances for him to reconvene the inquest.  The very fact that Hutton hadn't heard evidence under oath was an exceptional reason I suggest.  I made the point in my last post that Mr Gardiner had a couple of practical problems to deal with if he decided to reconvene and these I will now discuss.

The first of these was the fact that Lord Falconer and Tony Blair stated that they were satisfied with the report ... it was hardly likely that they wouldn't be of course!  So the Lord Chancellor and Prime Minister were content with the report resulting from an inquiry carried out by a very senior judge.  If Mr Gardiner had reconvened it would suggest that he disagreed with these very big guns.  The point is though so far as David Kelly's death was concerned the coroner was still king.  He should not have let himself be overawed by them.

It wasn't just possible timidity on Gardiner's part though.  His second practical problem was of his own making - I'm not aware of anyone really discussing it before now.  On 14 August Mr Gardiner formally accepted the final report of Dr Hunt and the first report of Dr Allan at the resumed hearing of that date.  From these reports he provided information for the registrar to register Dr Kelly's death four days later (two of those days were the weekend).  Of course Mr Gardiner couldn't declare at the same time whether his conclusion was one of "suicide", "unlawful killing" or an "open verdict".  This was before the advent of narrative verdicts by the way. 

At a renewed hearing he would have to contemplate the possibility that some of the previously registered details were incorrect.  Suppose that he did conclude that the verdict was suicide then "Found dead at Harrowdown Hill" would not be satisfactory, bearing in mind dead men don't walk.  What would happen if some significant detail was expressed differently when evidence was heard under oath.  He had already accepted Dr Hunt's explanation about the mode of death without question.  "The Doctors", had already expressed disquiet about Dr Hunt's conclusions and the ambulance crew in both commenting at the Inquiry about the lack of blood had poured more cold water on whether death could be from haemorrhage.

It can be seen then that if Mr Gardiner pressed ahead, as he should have done, he would have faced a range of uncertainties, allied to the fact that he might have appeared unwise even incompetent in registering the death when all he should have done to comply with Section 17A was to provide an interim certificate confirming the identity of the deceased.  

Mr Gardiner found himself in an invidious position on 16 March.  He decided to take the easy option. 

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