Hutton hits back at 'whitewash' claims

Hutton report into David Kelly's death was dismissed as a whitewash
Hutton report into David Kelly's death was dismissed as a whitewash

Lord Hutton has today hit back at critics of his report into the death of David Kelly, more than two years after it was dismissed as a "whitewash".

The judge said he understood that critics of the Iraq war had hoped his inquiry would attack the government, but argued such a conclusion would not have been appropriate.

"An inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of one man was not an appropriate forum for investigating the reliability of the intelligence provided to the government by the JIC [joint intelligence committee] or the prime minister's use of the machinery of government or the other wider issues in respect of the war in Iraq," he said.

Lord Hutton's comments come in an article in the latest edition of Public Law magazine and are his first response to the media criticism of his report. He notes that if he had delivered a highly critical report he would have received "much praise".


But he writes: "In reality, if I had written such a report I would have been failing in one of the cardinal duties of a judge conducting an inquiry into a highly controversial matter which gives rise to intense public interest and debate."

Lord Hutton was charged by Tony Blair to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly on July 17th 2003, and published his conclusions in January 2004.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) scientist had been named as the source for a BBC news report in May 2003, in which the government was accused of "sexing up" a September 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Reporter Andrew Gilligan cited a senior government source as saying that ministers claimed in this dossier that Saddam Hussein could deploy some weapons within 45 minutes, even though they knew it to be untrue.

The MoD announced to the press on July 8th that one of their staff had said the source might be him. A day later, a journalist asked if the scientist was Dr Kelly, and a press officer confirmed it was. Eight days later, Dr Kelly killed himself.

Lord Hutton's subsequent report found that the JIC had backed the 45-minute claim and he concluded the dossier was not "sexed-up", although he said Downing Street wanted it to make a strong case against Saddam.

He criticised the MoD for failing to help and protect Dr Kelly, in particular for not telling him first that his name would be confirmed if a journalist asked, and for failing to inform him that his identity had been made public until an hour and a half after the event.

Today Lord Hutton accuses the media of failing to acknowledge these criticisms and to accept his report was focused on the death of Dr Kelly, not the government's intelligence.
"If all the evidence given at my inquiry was fairly taken into account, there was no reasonable basis on which my conclusion that the government did not know that the 45-minute claim was wrong and had not ordered the dossier to be sexed up could be described as a whitewash of the government," he said.

To read Lord Hutton's report visit www.sweetandmaxwell.co.uk

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