The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Hutton technique

Apart from the lollipops (in the Sir Thomas Beecham sense) offered by the likes of Donald Anderson, the transcripts tend to be dry and tough meat.

Trying to analogise the technique of Lord Hutton and his Interlocutor-General, James Dingemans, it seems that, a lot of the time, they're engaged in something like the sort of puzzle that used to appear in cheap publications for the amusement of young children on long car journeys: one had two badly made line-drawings side by side, which, at first glance, looked identical. The infuriating task set was to spot the deliberate differences between the two. (Often, the production quality was so bad, you couldn't be sure what was deliberate, and what shoddy workmanship.)

With Hutton, it's going over the same old memos, recounting the same old meetings, getting the same old answers - or are they?

Hutton, as it were, is drawing the various versions of the same event on transparencies and placing them on top of one another: where they diverge could just be an artefact of the inquiry process - a confused question or a faulty memory - or it might be a genuine conflict in the evidence. It might even be that someone is lying.

In such a task, the well-meaning amateur can contribute little bar admiration.

(Of course, it may be that Hutton is completely flummoxed, and is going through the documentation in detail with the witnesses merely to use up a decent amount of time before going off to write his report. That would, as best I can judge from the proceedings to date, be a very dangerous thing for any interested party to assume!)

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