One of the unusual aspects of procedure in the Hutton Inquiry was the way that Dr Kelly's widow Janice and one of the daughters Rachel gave their evidence (the other two daughters Ellen and Sian didn't appear before Lord Hutton). Although they arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 1st September 2003 to give their testimonies their evidence was unusually by an audio link from another part of the building. Norman Baker thinks that a possible reason for this rather strange arrangement was the desire to shield both women from a degree of media attention but of course photography wouldn't have been allowed in the courtroom and apart from Lord Hutton's opening and closing statements TV cameras were not allowed access.
This report on the BBC shows Mrs Kelly and Rachel arriving at the Inquiry on the morning of the 1st September. It can be seen that Mrs Kelly, suffering from arthritis, isn't very mobile. Rachel, it will be observed, is carrying what looks like a document case and I'll come back to this in a moment. I assume that the exchanges one hears in the second half of this video have been spoken by actors.
In his opening statement we hear from Lord Hutton that he visited Mrs Kelly on the morning of Saturday 26th July at her home and received information from her. The fact that this visit happened prior to Hutton taking verbal evidence is not something that unduly surprises me, remember that the Inquiry is not an inquest. What has caught my attention though is an interesting fact revealed by this very useful time line provided by the BBC. It shows that Lord Hutton wasn't alone when he visited the Kelly Family on the 26th, he was accompanied by senior counsel to the inquiry Mr Dingemans.
On Tuesday 2nd September Ruth Absalom gives her relatively brief evidence by an audio link. I'm not sure where it was from, I have a feeling it was from Oxford, certainly Ms Absalom wasn't dragged up to London. The question I am posing is this: if Janice and Rachel Kelly were going to give their evidence unseen why bring them up to London? Why not adopt a similar procedure to that used in the case of Ms Absalom the following day? Here is a possible scenario - Mrs Kelly and Rachel go up to London on that last weekend in August and stay at a hotel (nothing wrong in that). On the Sunday say they are visited by Lord Hutton and Mr Dingemans and the latter outlines the questions he will be asking the next day and they have time to consider their responses. I shall have to go through the hearings again for that Monday but certainly the exchanges had a feeling of almost being pre-prepared. Was this the real reason for the Kelly's being kept out of vision, so that they aren't seen reading the script? Was this 'script' the documents that Rachel might have been carrying in with her? In a separate room I can imagine mother and daughter sitting next to each other giving each other moral support.
There are many people who question whether Mrs Kelly was being entirely honest in the presentation of her evidence. It seems that the Family are not at all keen for an inquest to now take place. If an inquest were to be convened then Janice Kelly would have to give evidence under totally different circumstances. She would surely then be in open court with not just her words but her body language under intense scrutiny. She could be subject to cross examination. She would be alone whereas at Hutton I imagine Rachel sitting right next to her. It can be seen that the way she would have to give her evidence would be dramatically, totally different to that at the Inquiry. Plus she is already 7 years older. Suppose there is an inquest (and I believe there should be one) and that an open verdict is reached. From Mrs Kelly's perspective the Hutton verdict of suicide did bring some sort of closure for her, she sold the Family home and made what she believed to be a fresh start. Would she welcome an inquest? I can very clearly see why she might not.
One question about inquests in general that others might be able to clear up for me. At a trial a witness is in a separate room until called to give evidence, and quite right too in my opinion. At the Inquiry (and I've never seen anybody comment on this) it was evident that individual witnesses could listen in on what other witnesses were saying. What is the situation at an inquest? Does each witness give their evidence "cold" not knowing what previous witnesses have said. I'd love to know the answer to that one. It could be yet another very significant difference in procedure between an informal style of Inquiry like Hutton and an inquest.