Thursday, 18 November 2010

Evidence from an inner sanctum

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. 



  1. Brian,
    The last inquest I attended was one where a person had gone missing and then been found dead some weeks after a police search had failed to find the body.
    There was nothing suspicious in this case, the victim had suffered mental problems and was insulin dependent.
    The inquest took place at the local town hall, and all witnesses gave their evidence in open court (I think this normal practice) the hearing was very formal, court rules applied, all witnesses gave evidence under oath, and when one witness (a very distressed relative of the deceased) spoke out of turn the coroner threatened them with contempt.
    At this inquest there was no stone left unturned and it was all over in an afternoon.
    A bit different to Lord Hutton's fiasco.

  2. Brian, as I get deeper and deeper into the fine detail of this Inquiry, less and less of it seems to ring true to me. It is like a racy crime novel, with (almost) everything fitting together like a jigsaw. But it all depends on bizarre coincidences, wrong visas,emails bouncing, phones not working....I get the feeling that just about the only genuine witnesses in the whole pantomime of the Hutton Inquiry are the two somewhat bemused Paramedics. Those few released documents, and diary pages and emails are also part of the drama. All I can take for granted is that the paramedics found a body some time after 10am on 17 July 2003. Nothing else can be independently verified. The whole thing could be made up. What really happended? I have no idea. Why did whatever happen happen? I have no idea.

  3. Brian,
    Are you familiar with this phrase? "Be careful what you want, because one day you might get it"
    With that thought in mind, I would like to see you add a new topic on this superb site, along the lines of:
    What do we expect to happen when indisputable evidence finally emerges proving Dr Kelly was murdered?
    Do we really think that the government is going to come clean, root out those responsible and make them stand trial, and when they are found guilty will we see ex-cabinet ministers and high ranking civil servants led away from the docks at the Central Criminal Courts in handcuffs?
    I think not.
    The recent Labour government has just presided over a shameful episode in this country’s history in which large numbers of people have been illegally shipped out of this country, flown to foreign lands against their will for no other purpose that to be tortured.

    The security services knew what was going on, the government knew what was going on. The public knew nothing.
    Has anybody been summoned to court and convicted of any offence? No.
    Has anybody even lost their job over this? No.
    So what has been done? Despite rulings in the High Court the government still deny all knowledge of these events and have decided that we the taxpayer should compensate these characters, some of whom are perfectly innocent citizens, some of whom could well be criminals and some of whom may even be terrorists.
    But when questioned the government tell us, “this was all necessary in the interest of national security”.
    So what is going to be their excuse when the poo finally hits the fan over the murder of Dr Kelly?

  4. Brian,

    Ruth Absalom did give evidence from Oxford.

    See Line 16 on Page 1 here:

  5. Felix,

    At the risk of being picky it was 18th July 2003.

  6. Of course, Andrew. A slip up. I also meant to say that the paramedics had prounced dead the body which they had been called out to attend, although they did find it in a new position.

    Brian - there were court artists in the Hutton courtroom.
    I was perplexed by the somewhat theatrical hiding of Mrs Kelly with a still photo of her in the courtroom. The transcript reads like she is quite relaxed. However, in this exchange, about having to leave the house (again ,quite cooky! What? To leave it empty for Special Branch? Can't Thames Valley police deal with a crowd of press in Southmoor?)she seems to misread her lines and goes off at a bizarre tangent....
    Mrs Kelly: "The phone rang inside the house and he went in to answer it, came out and he said: I think we will be needing that house after all. The MoD press office have just rung to say we ought to leave the house and quickly so that we would not be followed by the press.
    Mr Dingemans: " So the phone call was from the Ministry of Defence?"
    Mrs Kelly:" It was the Ministry of Defence press office."
    Mr Dingemans " And they said you ought to leave?"
    A. Yes. Whether he had offered anything else in the interim I do not know, that was never mentioned."
    Mr Dingemans: Right. But you decided to go down to this place that you knew --...."

    Whenever Mr Dingemans says RIGHT , it means things need to be brought back to the main script.
    Then follows the Road Movie part of Mrs Kelly's witness examination.

  7. Contined....
    After fleeing their house on MoD advice,Mrs Kelly says that she and her husband pull into an hotel in Weston super Mare. I am quite interested in this unnamed hotel - there would surely be an entry in the guests' book to allay my suspicions that this road trip might not have occurred.
    I am reminded how the Guardian newspaper , in the 1990s ,acting on information that Jonathan Aitken was not in Paris and had dug out the visitors' book from an hotel in Switzerland which proved that Mr Aitken could not have been in Paris as he testifieid and thus had committed perjury in his libel action.
    Sadly, the Guardian does not show the same enthusiasm for finding out the truth in the David Kelly case.

  8. Have just read a very interesting piece from the MailOnLine dated 29 August 2003. This is the Friday before the Monday on which Janice and Rachel Kelly each gave their evidence. I hadn't realised that the Kellys had requested giving their evidence by video link from home or somewhere nearby rather than trekking down to London. It seems that this wasn't a problem for the Inquiry (in fact on the Tuesday Ms Absalon gave her testimony by video link from Oxford).

    So why the change of plan with mother and daughter going to London but then to have an invisible presence?

  9. I guess that request came from her solicitor Gompertz. I notice that creating a "frame of mind" seems to be of far greater importance than uncovering the actual facts of the death - which is what the whole Hutton Charade was all about. However, one can see from the Precis of Jeremy Gompertz's closing statements to the Hutton Inquiry that he entirely buys in the the dejection and desperation scenario painted by all the actors at the Inquiry.

  10. Felix,

    At the risk of being picky again ... Gompertz is counsel for the Kelly family.

    The Kelly family solicitor is Peter Jacobsen:

    The full transcript of Gompertz's closing submission is here:

  11. Quite right, Andrew, sorry I meant QC.
    Interestingly, following the online publication of the Toxicology and Pathology reports, Peter Jacobsen said the family had no comment to make on the decision to publish the reports.

  12. Felix,

    The Kelly family have had a monolithic desire not to comment for 7 years now.

    It's remarkable!!

  13. Andrew

    I know that you are amazed at the silence of the Kelly family and that none of them are hankering after an inquest. Frankly I'm not. Although I would love to believe Mrs Kelly's testimony is true in its entirety unfortunately I can't. Let us suppose for a moment that Mrs Kelly wasn't 100% honest at the Hutton Inquiry, for whatever reason. This could for example be due to some sort of mental illness. Suppose now that her daughters are aware of this. At Hutton Mrs Kelly was well protected from the public. She was invisible, she might have been reading from a script, she wasn't under oath, she wasn't the subject of searching cross examination, she probably had Rachel sitting next to her for reassurance.

    Imagine what it would be like in open court at an inquest. Very, very different. We have to remember that her daughters are not only individuals, they are a family and I suspect that there is a very strong loyalty there. My feeling is that Ellen, Rachel and Sian just do not welcome the prospect of their mother attending an inquest and that overrules all other considerations.

  14. Brian - you write
    "if Janice and Rachel Kelly were going to give their evidence unseen why bring them up to London?"

    Kamal Ahmed wrote in the Observer the day before:
    " She [Mrs Kelly] is likely to testify by video link to avoid the media scrum created by other witnesses' arrival at the Royal Courts of Justice"

    But she did arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice apparently, as did her daughter according to news footage, albeit perhaps a rear entrance. Or was this posed for selected press?

  15. Felix - see also my comment dated 27 November at 15.17. Seems that both the Mail and Observer had written about the change of plan.

    If Mrs Kelly and Rachel gave their evidence by video link from Oxford it seems to me that it would be harder to justify keeping them invisible. It might also have been thought that it was important for the media to be aware of Mrs Kelly's arthritis and consequent restriction of mobility.