Sunday, 15 May 2011

Shuffling the times of witness appearances

On the 1st August 2003 Lord Hutton makes his Opening Statement at the Inquiry.  He discusses his terms of reference and on page 3 states:

... it will be for me to decide the order in which the witnesses will be called.

He explains that taking the oral evidence will be split into two parts, part two after a period of consideration on his part being primarily devoted to the recall of certain witnesses from part one.  This second part would permit a degree of cross examination.

This post is primarily concerned with two of the witnesses who failed to make part one and who therefore weren't subject to any cross examination when they made their only appearance in part two.  There is also the interesting case of another witness in part one who certainly didn't seem to appear in his designated time slot, if he was due to come at all.

Before looking at these three people I should mention that on the home page of the Hutton website there is a tab "Times and Witnesses".  Unfortunately this appears to have been completed retrospectively so we can't see from it what the original "batting order" would have been, if this information for part one had been published in its entirety.  Obviously the information pertaining to part two could only have been completed once Hutton decided who to recall. 

It seems to me that there is little information on the internet to show what the original intention might have been as to the times of witness appearance.  However I think it's worth looking at the "when" and "why" of the three witness appearances referred to earlier.

 Detective Constable Coe
The morning of Tuesday 2nd September is a busy one at the inquiry with testimonies from Ruth Absalom, Dr Warner, Louise Holmes, Paul Chapman, PC Franklin, PC Sawyer and DS Webb.  After DS Webb finishes we have this:

MR DINGEMANS: My Lord, Detective Coe, we have not been able to get him here this morning. That, in fact, would then complete this morning's witnesses. We have finished now, I am sorry it is a wee bit early.
LORD HUTTON: When would you like to sit again?
MR DINGEMANS: 2 o'clock.
LORD HUTTON: Very well. I will rise until 2 o'clock.
(12.05 pm)
(The short adjournment)

No explanation is given as to why DC Coe can't turn up.  When he does give his testimony in part two DC Coe in my estimation spends no longer than 10 minutes giving his sparse evidence. Therefore if he had appeared when he was supposed to he would have finished by 12.15 say.   Scrolling down to the bottom of the "Times and Witnesses" tab there is a daily timetable that shows that the Lunch Adjournment is at 1pm suggesting that the morning's evidence would still finish 'a wee bit early'.

If I was naturally suspicious I would be tempted to believe that DC Coe was held back because his testimony was so much at variance with the other witnesses that morning; and of course it's possible that Thames Valley Police wanted time to carefully prepare him in the light of the earlier oral evidence.

Forensic Pathologist Dr Hunt
On the morning of 3rd September ACC Page is making his first visit to the Inquiry.  This is part of the interchange with Mr Dingemans:

Q. What was the name of the pathologist who --
A. The pathologist was Mr Nicholas Hunt.
Q. We were hoping to call Mr Hunt to give evidence this morning, but he is on holiday and he is coming in stage 2.

This begs the question: when was it known that Dr Hunt would be away on holiday?  Dr Hunt is certainly one individual that would have no doubt that Hutton would call him to the InquiryWouldn't some clarity as to his holiday arrangements be forthcoming when witness times were being arranged at the start?  The good old BBC website has a nugget in a report of the proceedings on the 1st September:  Towards the bottom of the page there is a box headed "This Week's Witnesses" and on "Wednesday" we see the name "Dr Nicholas Hunt".  The BBC must surely have got this information from the Inquiry.

Cock up or conspiracy?  I lean toward the latter!

Forensic Pathologist Mr Green
Dr Hunt then should have given his testimony on 3rd September but is on holiday.  This leaves a time gap in the day's proceedings.  However the ever helpful to Lord Hutton ACC Page has arranged the forensic biologist Mr Green to come to the Inquiry at short notice.  My question now is: was Mr Green ever scheduled to come to part one?

There is no mention of intended witnesses on the following day on the BBC page that I have previously linked to.  In fact part one of the Inquiry is conveniently completed at 1 pm on the Thursday.  But for Dr Hunt's "holiday" Mr Green wouldn't have appeared on Wednesday the third.  Was he originally coming to part one?  Coming at short notice, but how short was the notice?

We are left not knowing what exactly Hutton's intention was regarding Mr Green.  It was Hutton who decided who he would call to give oral evidence.  An FOI request from myself yielded the information that no paper or electronic evidence was provided to the Inquiry by Mr Green despite Mr Green being in the process of carrying out about 50 tests.

As Mr Green's tests were incomplete it was agreed that ACC Page would volunteer information on the results when he, ACC Page, returned for part two.   A couple of points: why on earth wouldn't Mr Green be recalled in part two to give the results and allow himself to be cross examined on them.  Secondly isn't it amazing that ACC Page, Lord Hutton and Mr Dingemans all find themselves suffering from amnesia 20 days later and fail to remember disclose the findings of Mr Green.

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