The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, September 22, 2003
Not quite the Big Lie, but...
In the agonisingly slow progress towards enlightenment down at Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand - home, for what seems an eternity and a half, for Lord Hutton's great inquest - a potential small leap forward on Thursday.
In the witness box, was Richard Hatfield, Personnel Director at the Ministry of Defence, and intimately concerned with the limb of the inquiry dealing with the treatment of Dr Kelly by HMG. Hatfield took a notably combative approach, in the face of cross-examination from counsel for the Kelly family, Jeremy Gompertz, QC .
He was happy to stand behind the way the MOD behaved towards Kelly - in fact, suggested that it had erred in being excessively lenient .
On the question of the guessing game the MOD played with journos - the MOD had agreed it would identify Kelly if, and only if, his name was put to one of its press officers  - his comment appears typically bold and bullish (44:16, emphasis mine):
16 Q. Do you consider it was outstanding support by the MoD
Now, I think that is the clearest statement we have had in evidence from HMG witnesses of what is, to judge from Hatfield's tone, supposed to be a killer argument to justify the guessing game. And I hypothesise that the statement is, in fact, a lie. (Or, at the least, a falsehood - despite his senior position in the MOD, one could not discount the possibility of ignorance on his part.) And that evidence might be adduced (should his Lordship be willing) to prove it to be a lie (or falsehood).
One or two points on this:
The MOD was created in 1964; I would hypothesise that, on several occasions in its four decades of existence, MOD ministers or officials have done what Hatfield alleges they are not able to do.
I can suggest a number of cases in which this may well have occurred - though absence of online records militates against being able to confirm the fact .
Very far from an exhaustive list, I'm sure; but illustrative of the rich seams to be mined for facts to contradict Hatfield's statement.
Would Lord Hutton allow counsel to lead evidence of this sort? Time is certainly against it. As well as the natural disinclination of all judges to bar fishing expeditions or diversionary tactics.
On the other hand, the question bears directly on a matter Lord Hutton evidently views as important: whether the MOD should have striven to resist Kelly's name becoming public, whether or not such efforts were likely to succeed. If it could be shown that the MOD had more than once denied (or avoided confirming) what it knew to be true, then no such rule as alleged by Hatfield could be adduced for its failure to do so to protect Dr Kelly.
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