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Streets Of London: Hutton Inq. Closing Statements

From The Streets Of London With William Moloney

The Hutton Inquiry Update - Day 23 – Closing Statements

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In the Inquiry today no witnesses were called. It was the day for the closing statements from legal Counsel.

The star of the day's proceedings, as he had been since the Inquiry resumed, was Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel for the Kelly Family.

He held the crowd spellbound as he ran through the evidence the Inquiry has heard. There was no movement in the courtroom as he spoke, no shuffling of papers, no shifting in the seats. And when he finished, there was an audible release of breath; those transfixed by him having been holding their collective breath.

All the other counsel paled in comparison, even when taking into account the dryer, less sympathetic positions they were forced to defend.

Mr. Sumption , Counsel for the Govt., was remarkable in his own assertions. He seemed to suggest that Dr. Kelly and his worsening mental health caused many of the issues at hand. He also staunchly defended that the govt. acted in good faith in all aspects: in the dossier, in the “war” with the BBC and their dealings with Dr. Kelly and the Inquiry.

So, we all now wait to see what Lord Hutton will make of the evidence he has heard. We wait to see where he finds fault. I would suggest that he will find fault almost everywhere: with Andrew Gilligan for his lax reporting, with the BBC for their confrontational reaction, with Number 10 for both the manipulation of the dossier and the naming of Dr. Kelly, with the MOD for their inability to protect one of their own, with Geoff Hoon for offering the MOD nothing other than politically motivated decisions. These will be his findings, a blame portioned across all actors, with no one held responsible.

But, even as I anticipated that Lord Hutton’s findings to be like this, I expect to be wrong. For Lord Hutton has shown himself to be no-one’s man. He has shown himself to be of both keen and quick intellect. I expect him to surprise with his findings. But I have neither his quickness nor keenness; I do not from where the surprise will come.

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Jeremy Gompertz- Counsel for the Kelly Family
Closing Statement to the Inquiry

Mr. Gompertz opened by saying the Kelly family accepts that Lord Hutton may find it necessary to blame certain individuals but "The Kelly family are not seeking revenge or retribution against individual scapegoats."

The Kelly family wished to ensure that "as far as is humanly possible that no-one else should suffer the ordeal endured by Dr Kelly". And to do this, the duplicity in the actions of the govt. and the MOD fallings must be exposed.

But, Mr. Gompertz said, that this objective is a long way from being completed, if the govt. submissions are a barometer.

"With the exception of the Walter Mitty slur, the government and MOD do not accept that any criticism should be made of any government action or any blame should be attached to any individual in the events leading up to Dr Kelly's death."

Mr. Gompertz singled out Richard Hatfield, Personnel Director at the MOD, for criticism. He said the Kelly family were “deeply hurt and angered” by Mr. Hatfield’s assertion that Dr. Kelly brought it all on himself by talking to Mr. Gilligan. The Family was concerned that Mr. Hatfield had asserted that the MOD had given “outstanding support” to Dr. Kelly.

"Were the matter not so serious, the family would find the assessment of the support given to Dr Kelly as ... to be risible."

“Never again should a civil servant be publicly named if there is an alternative, Never again should there be "such feeble support for an employee" at a time of crisis…”

Mr. Gompertz then turned to the Media.

“The effect of all this media attention upon an extremely private and retiring man should not be underestimated…This treatment of a grieving family by the media is wholly unacceptable."

He also criticized The Today Program for a culture of making the news rather than reporting it.

Mr. Gompertz then outlined four charges why the Kelly family believed Andrew Gilligan to be “unreliable”.

After Mr. Gilligan, Mr. Gompertz turned to Number 10. He said that the Kelly family asserted and welcomed the Inquiry to find that the Govt. had used Dr. Kelly in its “war” with the BBC.

He cited Dr. Kelly’s appearance in front of the Parliamentary Committees, the surroundings of his naming and Alistair Campbell’s diary as proof of this.

Mr. Gompertz singled out Geoff Hoon for detailed and scathing criticism. He cited an email revealed to the Inquiry on Wednesday sent on 9 July by Mr. Hoon's private secretary Peter Watkins to the MOD's chief press officer Kate Wilson, said that Jonathan Powell had suggested to Mr. Hoon "that we should simply name our man but left the decision to Mr. Hoon who has not yet reached a final view".

“This document demonstrates once again the hypocrisy of Mr. Hoon's public stance on the matter in submissions he gave to the inquiry. Curiously, neither Mr. Hoon nor Jonathan Powell saw fit to mention this e-mail during their evidence, which meant we were unable to cross-examine them about it. If, as the family submit, there was a strategy to out Dr Kelly, to use a witness to undermine Andrew Gilligan in furtherance of the Government's dispute with the BBC, this was a cynical abuse of power and deserves the strongest possible condemnation."

This evidence should be taken with "the failure to provide any reasonable explanation of the abandonment of the original stance adopted in the MOD press office's Q&A material on 4 July, when it was stated that the name would not be disclosed and there was "no benefit in revealing it".

"The Government has yet to explain... why Dr Kelly was kept in the dark about the strategy that Number 10 and the MOD had developed to confirm his name to journalists if that name was put to the MOD press office."

The plain and obvious reason was the risk he might not consent to it and may refuse to co-operate in appearing before the FAC and ISC."

"Common decency required that Dr Kelly be kept informed. He had not committed any disciplinary offence, he was not on trial and was entitled to the same fair treatment as any other civil servant."

Yet Mr. Hatfield statement to this Inquiry was that he felt "I did not, and do not, believe I required his (Dr. Kelly) consent."

Moving slightly, the Mr. Gompertz outlined an issue at the heart of the Govt. duplicity.

He noted that Alistair Campbell’s diary noted that he had been assured that Dr. Kelly had been “well schooled” for his appearance before the Parliamentary Committees.

Mr. Gompertz described this simply as “improper”.

“Your Lordship would have been moved by the evidence of Mrs. Kelly and her daughter Rachel of how tired and how unhappy he was. How he felt betrayed by the MOD, no doubt because he had been led to believe that the matter could be dealt with confidentially. He found himself in the glare of the media. He had worked faithfully in the Foreign Office all his life. He had achieved great eminence both nationally and internationally."

”Dr. Kelly had worked all his life for his country, faithfully, but "was used as a pawn in their political battle with the BBC".

"His public exposure must have brought about a total loss of self-esteem, a feeling that people had lost trust in him. No wonder Dr Kelly felt betrayed after giving his life to the service of his country. No wonder he was broken-hearted and, as his wife put it, shrunk into himself. In his despair he seems to have taken his own life."

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Jonathan Sumption- Counsel for the Govt.
Closing Statement to the Inquiry

"The pressure which leads a man to take his own life is never easy for others to understand after the event" was Mr. Sumption opening remark.

Mr. Sumption continued by defending the dossier.

He restated that the dossier was published for the Public Interest, based on good intelligence.

The material in the dossier was a reflection of the views of Joint Intelligence Committee and the Chairman John Scarlett.

"Even now, this is not accepted by the BBC, but I see no reason why it should not be accepted by your lordship,"

He continued, that the 45-minute claim was based on good intelligence.

Mr. Sumption defended the role played by Alistair Campbell and Jonathan Powell in the dossier, stating that it was a normal and requested by the Prime Minister.

He said the late changes suggested by Jonathan Powell surrounding the 45-minuted claim were only included because the intelligence justified it.

Mr. Sumption then moved onto the BBC. He said, "The government is not, and never has been, engaged in a crusade against the BBC".

Mr. Sumption then worked methodically through the series of errors and possible fabrications that Andrew Gilligan made in his report.

He then questioned the BBC’s handling of the controversy, the most telling being that the BBC never acknowledged how serious the allegations that they had made were.

He defended the govt. reaction, saying that it was not a personal “war” for Alistair Campbell and that the govt. would have reacted even if Mr. Campbell were not involved. This was as the BBC had made a direct and personal attack on the Prime Minister integrity.

Mr. Sumption said that the Govt. was under “ no obligation to keep Dr Kelly's name secret, and Dr Kelly had no right to expect them to do so."

There was no principle that civil servants were entitled to anonymity, said Mr. Sumption.

He did not wish to criticism the Kelly family but their assertion of a conspiracy within Govt. to release Dr. Kelly’s name was "completely unjustified".

Mr. Sumption then took the extraordinary step of suggesting of blaming Dr. Kelly for much of the confusion in evidence and the situation he found himself.

He suggested that Dr. Kelly had convinced himself that he had been assured by the MOD that he would remain anonymous, convinced himself of this due to the pressures he was under Mr. Sumption said.

He then asserted that Dr. Kelly’s fears over losing his pension were unfounded and to blame these fears on the MOD was unfair, the implication that Dr. Kelly was mentally unstable.

He then said of the MOD lack of support for Dr. Kelly "It is fair to say at the outset that Dr Kelly was an extremely self contained person. He kept his feelings to himself. That very fact meant he was not an easy person to help."

Mr. Sumption finished by saying was a tragedy for his family and a great loss to the services for which he worked.

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Andrew Caldecott QC- Counsel for the BBC
Closing Statement

He stated that the BBC stood by all of it’s allegations made and had been vindicated by evidence.

He showed that the thrust of Andrew Gilligan’s report was shown to be true by:
Susan Watts evidence, the emails surrounding the dossier from Number 10 in particular Jonathan Powell and that there were misgivings in the Intelligence Community as shown to the Inquiry.

He accepted that the BBC will criticized for the original 6.07am broadcast and it’s treatment afterwards, but he stressed that it was in the public interest.

He said that Alistair Campbell inflamed the situation through his performance at both Channel 4 and the FAC where he accused the BBC of lying.

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Heather Rodgers – Counsel for Andrew Gilligan
Closing Statement

Ms. Rodgers stated that Mr. Gilligan had made mistakes but those mistakes “were made inadvertently and in good faith".

Ms. Rodgers said, “"in the media as in real life nobody is perfect"

Ms. Rodgers defended Andrew Gilligan’s right to speak to Dr. Kelly and pursue questions regarding the dossier as it was in the public interest. That on the whole, Dr. Kelly volunteered information to Mr. Gilligan, not the other way around.

She stated that the govt. reaction to the story was to focus on a couple of phrases that were not repeated, to draw attention from the rest of the story, which was true. The Govt. reaction was that of the school bully, as shown by Alistair Campbell’s diary, to go after the messenger.

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