Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Why choose Lord Hutton to chair the Inquiry?

This is what Mr Grieve says in his written statement of 9 June 2011 about Lord Falconer's choice of person to chair the Inquiry:

Lord Falconer cannot be criticised for his choice of Chairman for the Inquiry.  Lord Hutton was, at the time, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.  He had had a distinguished career at the Bar, as a judge, and later as Chief Justice for Northern Ireland.  Whilst he had not previously sat as a Coroner, he was not unfamiliar with Coronial law and practice.  As a Northern Ireland judge he had presided over many juryless, terrorist connected trials in which he, as judge, determined the facts as well as the law, rendering him particularly qualified to take on the inquisitorial role required by the Inquiry.  It should also be also be recognised that a number of judges have recently sat as Coroners, notably in the Inquest into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed and, more recently, in respect of the London bombings of 7th July 2005.  Lord Hutton was assisted in carrying out the Inquiry by a formidable legal team headed by a senior Silk.

It's instructive to read what was said at the Select Committee on Public Administration held on 25 May 2004 (approx 10 months after Dr Kelly's death).  The witness was one Lord Falconer of Thoroton  http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmpubadm/606/4052510.htm  Questions 173 to 175 are particularly pertinent regarding Lord Hutton's appointment although the whole session with Falconer is interesting.

Lord Falconer states about Hutton 'he was a senior judge of unimpeachable standing'.  We then have a humorous aside from the Chairman saying  'You are not suggesting, by the way, that there are some judges of impeachable standing are you?' to which of course Falconer had to reply 'No'. 

In actual fact Hutton was "tainted" before conducting the InquiryWhat Falconer didn't say on 25 May 2004 and what Grieve never said on 9 June 2011 was that, as Brian Hutton, he represented the Ministry of Defence at the now totally discredited Widgery Inquiry following the "Bloody Sunday" shootings in Londonderry on 30 January 1972.  Maybe in 1972 Hutton was only doing what he was paid to do but it is clear that he was demonstrably part of the cover up relating to the Bloody Sunday business.  In 2003 following Dr Kelly's death it was again the MoD who were under the spotlight.  It goes against the whole concept of natural justice in my opinion to appoint Hutton to head the Inquiry, a man who had been a previous employee of the MoD and who had been party to one of the most notorious cover ups of recent times.

I am grateful to Andrew Watt who had drawn attention to this earlier chapter of Hutton's life, see his "Chilcot's Cheating Us" blog http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.com/2011/04/death-of-david-kelly-lord-hutton-has.html  Notice in particular what Hutton had to say to the Londonderry coroner Major Hubert O'Neill.  Perhaps it was this background that led to Falconer very quickly deciding that Hutton was his man for the job.

Putting aside the Widgery Inquiry connection for a moment there are two other reasons that for me suggest Hutton shouldn't have been asked to chair the Inquiry.  Firstly it was known that Hutton was due to retire in less than 6 months from his appointment by Falconer.  Even with the intention of expediting the Inquiry as quickly as possible it was obvious that the risk existed of the Inquiry going beyond his retirement date.  And so it happened: Lord Hutton officially retired as a judge on 11 January 2004 and before he presented his Report on 28 January.

The other thing I want to mention is that Hutton's only experience in chairing an inquiry concerned drainage works in a river in Northern Ireland, and that's it.  In a new post I will discuss how some aspects of Hutton's inexperience became only too clear.

At question 190 in the Committee hearing Falconer states that the number of experienced judges that could have run the Inquiry was in the tens yet it seems that he really only considered Hutton.

Mr Grieve - Lord Falconer can be criticised for his choice of Chairman for the Inquiry.


  1. Frank says:
    Whilst I hate to change the subject, I do think the world should know just why we went to war with Iraq and why the US were determined nobody would stand in their way.

    This is a recent extract from a report published by Iraq Energy, the voice of their Ministry of Oil.

    "Iraq could have largest oil reserves in the world"
    Sonia Verma in Sharm el-Sheikh.
    Iraq dramatically increased the official size of its oil reserves yesterday after new data suggested that they could exceed Saudi Arabia’s and be the largest in the world.
    The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister told The Times that new exploration showed that his country has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels. The figure is triple the country’s present proven reserves and exceeds that of Saudi Arabia’s estimated 264 billion barrels of oil. BarhamSalih said that the new estimate had been based on recent geological surveys and seismic data compiled by “reputable, international oil companies . . . This is a serious figure from credible sources.”

  2. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton QC, was at that time a Visitor of St Anthony's College, Oxford (since amended in 2007).
    The College houses a Middle East Centre.
    At St Anthony's College, Ibrahim Al-Marashi aquired a D.Phil in 2004 on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In September 2002, Al-Marashi, who had previously worked at the Centre for Non-proliferation studies,(CNS) in the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS), perhaps concurrently with Dr David Kelly, authored a paper entitled IRAQ'S SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE NETWORK: A GUIDE AND ANALYSIS in the journal MERIA, Middle East Review of Internation Affairs (even before he had acquired his PhD). This article was allegedly plagiarised by Downing Street spin doctors in early 2003, the so-called Dodgy Dossier.