Sunday, July 21, 2013

Andrew Gilligan - ten years of reflection

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The betrayal of Dr David Kelly, 10 years on

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist at the centre of the 'dodgy dossier’ row, reflects on the shocking facts that have emerged since Dr David Kelly’s death

By Andrew Gilligan

7:00AM BST 21 Jul 2013

I still remember, of course, how I heard about David Kelly’s death. It started with an early-morning phone call from my friend Mick Smith, then defence correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. Dr Kelly had gone missing, and the police were looking for a body.

Even then, I couldn’t really believe that he had died. Surely it was some sort of misunderstanding? Perhaps he’d just decided to go off for a few days and would turn up in some hotel, à la Stephen Fry? As soon as I got to the BBC, the director of news, Richard Sambrook, called me to his office. While I had been on the way in, he said, not sounding like he believed it himself, Dr Kelly’s body had been found, and it looked like suicide. He’d taken painkilling tablets and slashed one of his wrists.

If Sambrook sounded shaken, it was nothing to how I sounded. He had to get me a glass of water to calm me down. But as well as being upset, I was very, very surprised. I hadn’t known David all that well, but he didn’t strike me as the suicidal type, if there is such a thing.

He was quite used to confrontation and pressure: he’d been a weapons inspector in Iraq, for goodness’ sake. I thought his famous grilling by the Foreign Affairs Committee had been distasteful, and symptomatic of the committee’s stupidity, but it hadn’t been that bad. And the affair was tailing off. Politics was breaking for the summer, both the BBC and I had refused to confirm or deny whether David was my source, and the battle between us and Downing Street had essentially reached stalemate.

What a lot I didn’t know. Even now, almost precisely 10 years since David Kelly’s last journey, we are still learning just how extraordinary and inexcusable the behaviour of our rulers was – both towards him, and in the wider cause, defending the Iraq war, for which he was outed and died. On July 18 2003, I did not consider myself a shockable person; I was an experienced, sceptical journalist with, I thought, a realistic idea of how politicians, intelligence officers and civil servants behaved. But over the months and years that followed, my views, and those of most of the country, changed. To borrow the famous words of David Astor over Suez, we had not realised that our government was capable of such folly and such crookedness.

You probably remember Dr Kelly’s main contention, which became the centrepiece of my BBC story – that a government dossier making the case against Iraq had been “transformed” at the behest of Downing Street and Alastair Campbell “to make it sexier”, with the “classic example” being the insertion in the final week of a claim, based on a single source, that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could be deployed within 45 minutes. The intelligence services were unhappy about the 45-minute claim, David said. They believed it was unreliable. In the first of my 18 broadcasts on the story, I added a claim, mistakenly attributing it to David, that the Government probably knew the 45-minute claim was wrong.

What we now know is that at precisely the same moment as the Government was launching hysterical attacks on the BBC and on me for reporting this, Whitehall had quietly conceded that it was true. In July 2003, literally as David Kelly was outed, MI6 secretly withdrew the 45-minute intelligence as unreliable and badly-sourced.

What we now know is that according to Major General Michael Laurie, the head of the Defence Intelligence Staff at the time of the dossier, “we could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was clear to me that pressure was being applied to the Joint Intelligence Committee and its drafters. Every fact was managed to make the dossier as strong as possible. The final statements in the dossier reached beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.”

What we now know is that, according to an MI6 officer working on the dossier, the 45-minute claim was “based in part on wishful thinking” and was not “fully validated”. Another MI6 officer said that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence services about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”.

What we now know is that on September 17 and 18 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Alastair Campbell sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that on Saddam’s nuclear capability the dossier gave the (accurate) impression that “there’s nothing much to worry about”. On September 19, Campbell emailed Scarlett again, suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that, in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabrication duly appeared in the dossier.

What we now know is that in his September 17 memo, Campbell suggested 15 other changes to the text of the dossier. Most were accepted; their effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty. Campbell lied to Parliament about the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down his interventions on most of the other issues.

And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.

We knew nothing of this then. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45-minute claim, straight-faced, as “a piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it. Despite his key role as Dearlove’s military counterpart, General Laurie was never called to Hutton at all; his explosive statement, and that of the two MI6 people, emerged only in 2011, at the Chilcot inquiry.

I don’t blame you if you knew nothing of all this until now; most of it, by happy coincidence, came out only long after public attention had moved on, and the government could no longer be damaged.

But the government knew – and this is what makes its behaviour towards the BBC and David Kelly so incredible. He came forward to his bosses as my source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret, but was effectively given up to the world after Campbell, in his words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, the FAC, was inquiring into the dossier. After it failed to denounce me to Campbell’s satisfaction, he confided to his diary that “the biggest thing needed was the source out”. That afternoon, on Downing Street’s orders, Ministry of Defence press officers announced that a source had come forward, handed out clues allowing anyone with Google to guess who he was, then kindly confirmed it to any reporter who guessed right. One newspaper was allowed to put more than 20 names to the MoD before it got to Dr Kelly’s.

Once outed, Dr Kelly was openly belittled by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. The FAC, by the way, didn’t want to question him – its inquiry had finished and its report had already been published – but Downing Street forced it to hold a special hearing anyway. The day before, for several hours, he was intensively coached in the need to “f---” me. Under great pressure, he blurted an untruth in the glare of the TV lights; an untruth which, on the morning of his death, his bosses told him they would investigate.

Dr Kelly defined himself by his work and his reputation for integrity. The fear of losing it must have been terrifying, even if it was almost certainly unfounded. Understanding that is one reason why I am certain that he did indeed kill himself, for all some people’s obsession to the contrary.

They’ll hate this comparison, but there’s an odd symmetry between the Kelly conspiracy theorists and Mr Blair. In both cases, their convictions seem to require them to fit the facts into unusual shapes. For Dr Kelly to have been murdered, as the pathologist’s report makes clear, it would have needed someone to force 29 pills down his throat, making him swallow them without protest. Then they would have had to get him to sit on the ground without any restraint, making no attempt to defend himself, while they had sawn away at his wrist with a knife. That knife, by the way, came from the desk drawer in Dr Kelly’s study, so they’d also have had to burgle his house to get it.

The even more telling question, though, is what motive anyone could have had for murder. Even if you believe the British government goes round bumping off its employees in cold blood, killing David Kelly would simply not have been in its interest. It was guaranteed to create a scandal and a crisis, as anyone with an iota of sense would have known. There’s no need to claim that David Kelly was murdered; his suicide is scandal enough.

Ten years on, there are some Groundhog Day elements. Over successive crises, the BBC’s management has been as incompetent as ever. Politicians still appear to think that set-piece inquiries are worth the paper they’re written on – despite the evidence from Lord Hutton’s and Sir John Chilcot’s efforts on Iraq, the latter entering its fifth year with few signs of a report.

Whatever Chilcot may eventually say, the debate on the war appears to have been decided. Few would now dispute the dossier was sexed up. But there is still a fascinating degree of dispute about David Kelly. I have sometimes asked myself why the self-inflicted death of one scientist should matter to us as much as, if not more than, the violent deaths of perhaps 120,000 Iraqis (535 of them this month alone, by the way – so much for making Iraq safe for democracy).

I think it’s partly because there may still be some excuses for what the Government did in Iraq. They expected it to be like Kosovo: the operation would succeed, the troops be welcomed and the predictions of doom confounded. They expected, too, that a few barrels of WMD would probably be found that could have been cast as a threat. Even the charge of “lying” about those weapons is not quite cast-iron: I prefer the charge I made, of sexing-up, or exaggeration. I and most others always thought Iraq had something in the WMD line; the exaggeration lay in the fact that it was nowhere near threatening enough to justify a war.

But there are no excuses for what the government did to the BBC and to Dr Kelly. He was outed to further a series of denials which we can, quite plainly, call lies. An explanation, if not an excuse, may rest in Campbell’s mental state: even Blair, in his memoirs, called him a “crazy person” who by that stage “had probably gone over the edge”. But that doesn’t explain the really scary part: how the machinery of government, in a mature democracy such as Britain’s, allowed itself to be captured by someone in that state.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former MI6 chief responsible for the dossier, was once asked what he thought of me. Flatteringly, he said: “I wouldn’t want you to print my views on Andrew Gilligan.” My own views on Sir Richard, Sir John Scarlett and the other distinguished knights of Iraq who got too close to New Labour are perfectly printable: they failed catastrophically in their duty, bringing their professions, their services – and their country – into deep, possibly permanent, disrepute.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Goslett Vs Rentoul

News > UK > UK Politics

Foul play vs suicide: Ten years on, the row still rages over the death of Dr David Kelly

The weapons expert's body was discovered in lonely woodland – wrists slashed – but journalist Miles Goslett has always pushed for an inquest. He goes head-to-head with John Rentoul of The IoS, who insists that Dr Kelly killed himself, as Lord Hutton found, and that to think otherwise is to believe a ridiculous and tasteless fairy story

Miles Goslett , John Rentoul  Sunday 14 July 2013

Dear John

We have never met, but I know that articles I have written in the past about the death of Dr David Kelly have prompted you to inform your Twitter followers that I am a "Daily Mail conspiracy theorist".

That's a lazy cliché if ever there was one.

I simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest into Dr Kelly's death. The law decrees that any sudden or violent death should be examined by a coroner ... it has been this way for hundreds of years.

A coroner must satisfy themself "beyond reasonable doubt" that the suicide was the result of an intended act. The standard of proof required is deliberately high.

In the case of Dr Kelly, the then Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner opened an inquest on 21 July 2003, but on 13 August 2003 the then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ordered it to be adjourned indefinitely.

Falconer used an obscure law to suspend proceedings, and in a very unusual – perhaps unique – move he replaced the inquest with a non-statutory public inquiry. Lord Hutton, a 72-year-old Law Lord with no coronial experience, was asked to chair the inquiry... within two hours and 40 minutes of Dr Kelly's body being found on Harrowdown Hill on 18 July, long before it had even been established officially whose body it was.

The inquest into his death was replaced by a politically appointed examination of the "circumstances surrounding" his death.

This was improper.

Experienced doctors and senior legal figures – including Appeal Court judges – remain uneasy about the lack of an inquest.

Questions have also been raised about the safety of the police investigation.

Best wishes


Dear Miles

I understand that anyone should be concerned about David Kelly's death, and I think it was reasonable at the time to consider the possibility of foul play. However, any reasonable person would have ruled out such a possibility after a cursory review of the facts, let alone a months-long public inquiry.

So when you say you "simply believe it is necessary to have a full coroner's inquest", you are not "simply" doing any such thing. You are saying that there was a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. If you are not saying that, then let us agree that he took his own life and we can close this correspondence without intruding further into this sad story.

The only reason you want an inquest is that you think that the Hutton inquiry dealt unsatisfactorily with the cause of death, and the only reason this could matter would be if Dr Kelly had been murdered. This would have involved kidnapping him in his home, where his wife was, stealing his wife's painkillers, releasing him again so that he could greet a neighbour on the way to the woods, and then killing him to make it look like suicide.

This is preposterous, offensive and probably disturbing to Dr Kelly's family, who have not asked a bunch of conspiracy theorists to poke their noses into their business. I suggest you desist.

Best wishes


Dear John

Despite the circumstances in which the late Wales football manager Gary Speed was found in 2011, when a coroner investigated his death he refused to reach a suicide finding because he could not prove intent.

In short, coroners – not Law Lords – pronounce on deaths because they are independent and willing to bare their teeth if necessary.

You seem to reject this centuries-old precedent in the case of Dr Kelly. Why is it "offensive" to raise questions when they arise? How do you know that the Kelly family is content that there has not been an inquest? For whom do you speak?

Your position is illogical because if you "know" that Dr Kelly killed himself, you presumably also "know" what the outcome of an inquest would be. In which case, what do you fear?

Since I began working on this story in 2008, I have discovered that all medical and scientific records relating to Dr Kelly were secretly sealed for 70 years; that six personal items found with his body were tested by police for fingerprints and DNA but none was found – yet this fact was not mentioned at the Hutton inquiry and Dr Kelly was not wearing gloves when found. Foul play cannot be ruled out.

All the best


Dear Miles

Foul play cannot be ruled out? Of course it can, as I have explained, and to say otherwise puts you in the company of cranks. As usual with conspiracy theorists, you adopt the device of saying, "I am only asking a question". Indeed, you ask several, one of them personal and offensive. If you would like to tell me for whom you think I speak, I should be happy to deal with specifics rather than insinuation.

A public inquiry serves all the purposes an inquest could. The burden is on those who want an inquest to explain why they think it is required. The reason the post-mortem report was closed for 70 years was to protect the family from "further and unnecessary distress", as Lord Hutton explained, but he then asked that it be published so that conspiracy theorists would stop pretending that there was something secret about it. You appear not to know about this; others of your fellow conspiracy theorists have given up and gone home; others still have done what conspiracy theorists usually do and changed the question.

As for the fingerprints, I don't know and I don't care. The only reason you have for mentioning them is, as I have explained, that you think it a serious possibility that Dr Kelly was murdered. Perhaps you will now supply some evidence to support this fantastic notion.

Best wishes


Dear John

Examining evidence is the key to exploring any theory.

Dr Kelly was last seen at about 3pm on 17 July; his body was found about 18 hours later. No one knows exactly what happened in between. You say you "don't care" about the fingerprint matter I raised. Why so dismissive? Not only is the lack of prints of interest, so is the fact of their absence never being mentioned at Hutton.

You suggest I'm being "offensive". All I have done is ask for whom you speak. Why are you so reluctant to explain why your mind is closed to the idea of an inquest? If you speak for nobody but yourself, surely you can say so.

The point about the 70-year classification is that Hutton never mentioned it in his 2004 report. It was revealed six years later. He advised that the PM report be published only because he was forced to.

Finally, you suggest it is up to me to provide evidence that Dr Kelly was murdered. That is absurd. It is up to the state to treat Dr Kelly's death as all other unnatural deaths are treated and hold an inquest. I'd have thought anyone who really wanted to settle this matter properly would have seen that long ago. Yet successive governments have been resistant. In opposition, Attorney General Dominic Grieve was sympathetic to an inquest. In government, a year later, he rejected the idea.

Inquests and public inquiries have very different standards. I know which is more rigorous.

The catalogue of lies and cover-ups from so many organisations in recent years surely suggests we should all be sceptical of "official" findings.


Dear Miles

I am sorry that you continue to make a fool of yourself, and should point out that you have not responded to the point I made in my first response that your theory requires David Kelly to have been abducted from his home, where his wife was, released to greet a neighbour and then murdered. All the rest of your detail that "may be important" is irrelevant until you can get past that first barrier to credibility.

The death of Dr Kelly has been investigated, in public, in far more detail than most suicides. All the circumstances are consistent with suicide. A private man had put himself in the public eye, having caused the BBC to publish a report that he knew was wrong; he had denied the words of an interview with another BBC journalist, Susan Watts, which had been tape recorded; and he felt his career was at an end.

As I explained in our previous correspondence, of course I speak only for myself. For whom do you think I speak? I have dealt with the 70-year point, about which you did not know the basic facts and have now changed the question.

Until you can explain why any reasonable person should suspect foul play in the death of Dr Kelly, I suggest that you should join the big names who have tiptoed away in embarrassment from this ridiculous and tasteless fairy story.

Best wishes, as ever


Dear John

The ridiculous "abduction" scenario you propound is not worthy of response. But do reread Janice Kelly's evidence to Hutton carefully. It is revealing. People used to think Hillsborough had been investigated properly. This case still needs a coroner.

You call Dr Kelly a "private man". But he invited a TV crew into his home to give an interview the month before he died, so he wasn't that private.

I broke the 70-year story. I know all about it.

Many people have doubts about this affair and would simply like an inquest to be held.

All best


Dear Miles

I have indeed reread Mrs Kelly's evidence. It is very sad. She described her husband as "desperate", "distracted and dejected", and said: "I just thought he had a broken heart." I would hope that you would show more respect to Dr Kelly's family, who have not said that they are unhappy with the findings of the Hutton inquiry.

You say you would "simply like an inquest to be held". There is nothing simple about it: the only reason for wanting an inquest is that you think Dr Kelly might have been murdered, and that Lord Hutton, Tony Blair, Mrs Kelly and the present Attorney General, who refused the request for a new inquest, are all involved in a huge cover-up. I am disappointed that I cannot bring you to see how silly that is.

Best wishes


Also from John Rentoul:

Last Whimper of a Conspiracy Theory

By John Rentoul
Eagle Eye
Last updated: Sunday, 14 July 2013 at 11:30 am

The 10th anniversary of the death of David Kelly might have been an occasion to restore some balance to the debate about the Iraq war, which I have tried to do in the updated edition of my biography of Tony Blair (there is an extract here; download the e-book here or buy the paperback here).

In The Independent on Sunday, however, I have taken part in an unsatisfactory debate with a crank called Miles Goslett, who persists in propounding the conspiracy theory that Dr Kelly was murdered.

I say unsatisfactory because Goslett fails to argue his so-called case at all. The underlying reason is that the theory is bunk, but it is frustrating trying to engage with someone who goes on about the supposed absence of fingerprints and other details without explaining why he thinks they matter.

It is notable that all the names who have lent their meagre credibility to this tasteless idiocy have fallen silent on the matter. But let us just remind ourselves of a selection of the roll call of shame: Norman Baker, the transport minister (pictured), Peter Oborne, Melanie Phillips, Paul Dacre, Richard Ingrams, Michael Howard, Nick Ferrari and Paul Routledge.

The Mail on Sunday has surprisingly seen fit to publish, on its “news” pages, an article by Goslett, which argues that the Hutton inquiry was flawed because the judge was appointed too quickly. No, me neither.

Appended to this article is a comment by Simon Walters, the Mail on Sunday’s political editor, who accepts that Dr Kelly took his own life, but propounds the more pernicious theory that he was driven to it by “New Labour”. This is more pernicious because it is widely believed, not transparently potty, and therefore harder to rebut.

It is a hideous libel nonetheless and I refer any fair-minded person to the relevant parts of the Hutton Report about the Government’s role in Dr Kelly’s name becoming public. The facts that matter are that Dr Kelly had caused the BBC to publish an untrue and damaging story; that he was bound to be held to account for it; and that, if he was “hounded”, it was by journalists.

Tom Mangold, meanwhile, had a sensible article about the conspiracy theory in yesterday’s Independent, even if he does subscribe to the lazy journalistic assumption about George Bush and Tony Blair looking for “an excuse” for invading Iraq – but that is part of the intelligent debate about Iraq to which I referred at the start.

Previously on the Kelly murder conspiracy theory from this blog. (link)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tom Mangold - 'a clear and obvious suicide'

Independent Voices

Tom Mangold

Friday 12 July 2013

The tragedy of David Kelly 10 years on

Conspiracy theories followed and haunted the suicide of government scientist and WMD expert David Kelly. They persist now, a decade on.

The editor of the London Evening Standard phoned me at about 8.30am on the morning of 17 July 10 years ago and warned me that David Kelly, the government scientist, had gone missing. I phoned Janice, his wife. She was beside herself but a streak of optimism remained evident – he might have had a heart attack on his walk; he just needed to be found; it would be all right.

No, I thought to myself, David is dead. He was not the type to go missing for some 18 hours while walking near his home.

His body was found at 9.20am.

Like so many persistent journalistic contacts, David Kelly had morphed into becoming a friend. Not only did he know more about weapons of mass destruction than any man alive, but he was good, easy company. We always met in New York while he was working with Unscom as an arms inspector, and then we met socially in London. On one occasion, I interviewed him at my home for eight hours without a break. When my wife chided me about the rigours of the session, David just grinned and said he could do this all day.

This was the man whose razor-sharp questioning had reduced the vile “Toxic Taha” (Dr Rihab Taha, Iraq’s leading biologist and the woman behind Iraq’s biological weapons programme) to screaming impotent rage; this was the man who saw behind the Soviet’s desperate attempts to hide a completed ballistic missile programme armed with specially treated smallpox and anthrax warheads that, if fired, would probably have ended human life in the West. David was a very tough, clever and proud operator. The conspiracy theories followed and haunted his suicide. They persist now, a decade on.

Kelly was surely murdered; the Hutton inquiry which replaced a formal inquest was part of the government conspiracy to cover it up. This was, and remains the view of loonies, the useful idiots, the Blair haters, the usual suspects among professional conspiracy theorists, the rank amateurs, the paranoids and even a Liberal Democrat MP. All of them said or wrote books or got me dragged out of bed at first light to argue with them on the Today programme, each one convinced that a clear and obvious suicide had actually been a cunning murder.

If these people are right, consider who is either directly involved in the plot, or is so stupid as not to see an assassination when it happens in front of their eyes. Namely: the whole of the Thames Valley Police Force, uniform and detective, the Regional Special Branch; MI5; MI6; CIA; Scotland Yard; Lord Hutton and his team of lawyers; the Home Secretary; Tony Blair, not forgetting scores and scores of independent and very hungry investigative journalists from all over the world – to name just a few.

And ,oh yes, I nearly forgot. Every murder needs a motive, an opportunity and a logical perpetrator. But there is nothing. To the contrary, there was no reason to kill David; there was certainly no opportunity (ever tried forcing 29 co-proxamol tablets down an unwilling human throat?) and there has never been a hint of who might have done the deed.

Sadly, conspiracy theories grow like choking green algae in oxygen-starved waters. If only the conspiracy nuts were right – then poor investigative journalists like me would be rolling in dosh instead of eking out our humble lives on subsistence fees. If only Elvis Presley were alive; if only Marilyn Monroe had been murdered by the mafia using a toxic tampon; if only Lord Lucan would telephone me at home; if only Lee Harvey Oswald ... get the picture ?

David Kelly was working-class Rhondda Valley who became a credit to his background and was to serve his country and the free world with considerable distinction. He belonged to no man, and was picky, fussy, nuanced and detailed in his attitudes to his work and his conclusions. He rarely committed himself to hasty soundbite sum-ups in the complex world of WMD. His detective work as an arms inspector was without peer. He could spot strange and unexplained explosive scars in Soviet weapons test chambers; he knew the educational background of biological warfare specialists in Iraq, what they had studied and why they studied it. It was David who discovered the Iraqis had modified Czech MIG trainers to accommodate spray tanks (made in England) on their wings filled with anthrax and targeted at Israel.

But he was out of his depth when it came to biased journalism, the politics of the Ministry of Defence and its bully-boy executives and the one true conspiracy, namely the determination of the British and American governments to find an excuse to attack Iraq.

The intelligence fiascos, the dodgy dossiers, the fake defectors such as the risible “Curveball’ in Germany, the nonsense claims that Saddam Hussein had been shipping yellowcake ore (to make nuclear weapons) from Niger to Iraq; the fact that honest politicians such as Colin Powell himself were mercilessly deceived by compliant and naive intelligence agencies – all that was a bit over David’s pay grade.

Trapped, by dubious journalism; caught in a fight to the death (his death as it transpired) between the BBC and Whitehall; impelled to lie at an important parliamentary committee hearing, his pension at risk; his ace reputation (which meant everything to him) in the balance, his marriage no longer a success; imminent retirement – all this, and a little more, drove this fine man to end it all exactly 10 years ago in a small wood not far from his Oxford home.

What a terrible waste.

Friday, July 12, 2013

10 year 'cover-up' protest planned

Dr David Kelly - Gagging the Truth

There is to be a silent two hour protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday next, 18 July 2013, the tenth anniversary of the death of Dr Kelly. This demonstration is set to take place from 14.00 to 16.00 BST.

From the lead campaigner's Facebook page:

Over ten years there has never been a proper inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly - and the Attorney General will not sanction one. Justice has not been seen to be done. The truth has been gagged. Protest against this injustice. Bring a gag, or surgical mask if you prefer, for a silent protest against this injustice.

Friday, July 05, 2013

David Kelly - a new biography

David Kelly: An end to the conspiracy theories?

Having written the biography of David Kelly, I have found out many new secrets, but have finally let go of the conspiracy theories

Robert Lewis

The Guardian, Thursday 4 July 2013 16.00 BST

On Thursday 18 July activists will gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice to protest the enduring secrecy that surrounds the decade-old death of a retiring civil servant. Dr David Kelly was Britain's foremost authority on biological weapons, and perhaps our leading expert on Iraqi WMD, yet as this protest reminds us, his sudden death met with no inquest and no evidence was heard under oath. But despite this basic injustice, and despite my own long years of doubt, I will not be on the courtroom steps that morning. I have broken faith, and this is my confession.

The core group of Kelly campaigners has included doctors, surgeons, solicitors, a psychologist and at least one QC, although this has not prevented some commentators from labelling them as cranks, or – to use the specific pejorative – conspiracy theorists. Yet the morning Kelly's body was found, we were all conspiracy theorists: bar perhaps a few spooks, the whole nation from the prime minister down had no idea what had transpired on Harrowdown Hill. Kelly had been the only member of the Whitehall monolith to tell a journalist what hundreds of his fellow civil servants knew full well: that Downing Street's argument for invading Iraq was founded on deliberate dishonesty. In a haunting final email, he complained he was beset by "dark actors, playing games", and hours later he was dead.

The Hutton inquiry, in its brazenly pro-government account of Kelly's death, did nothing to assuage our distrust, and so for a while I too joined that disaffected legion of disbelievers who spent their nights trawling chat rooms and internet forums. There were a lot of us about. Conspiracy theories were inevitable.

Firstly there was shocking act of Kelly's suicide itself. The vast majority of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental illness or a history of prior attempts, and almost half of those who do not leave a note or some other indication of clear intent. When a man of sound mind abruptly decides to kill himself, especially in such an extraordinary and unlikely way, it is as mysterious as it is tragic. Then there is Kelly's obscured relationship with western intelligence agencies, and the ferocious political storm that engulfed him, But most profoundly of all there is the war itself.

War, whether we support it or not, begs for a narrative that can furnish us with heroes and villains. For the majority of British people, who saw the Iraq war as an unnecessary disaster, the villain was not Saddam but Tony Blair, and, casting about for a hero, we fell on a mild-mannered boffin, a man who spoke truth to power at great personal cost, the whistle-blower who told us "the government probably knew it was wrong".

As my investigation proceeded, this narrative unravelled entirely. I followed Kelly from his childhood in a smallpox-stricken Welsh valleys town to the university where he met his first military microbiologist (and where secretive smallpox work was carried out). I tracked him from his Oxford institute, whose staff sometimes experimented on the Porton ranges, to his tenure at Porton Down itself, from where he made his final and fatal leap into the world of intelligence. The man I discovered was not a meek civil servant but a deliberate, hard-edged expert who never once departed from the official line he was given.

Kelly was a man of secrets, and he kept them all, from the mysterious eco-terrorists supposedly responsible for the anthrax parcels of Operation Dark Harvest to Britain's tacit co-operation with apartheid South Africa's biological weapons programme. And not just South Africa. It was via Pretoria I obtained documents showing Kelly had also escorted two Iraqi microbiologists around his military lab, shortly after the Iran-Iraq war, and from another country again that I unearthed confirmation of the biological exports to Baghdad that our government hid from the Scott inquiry. Kelly never spoke out about any of it.

Similarly, the hue and cry about Iraqi WMD did not spring up out of nothing in 2002. It was a show that had been running for years, and as a chief inspector of the UN special commission, Kelly had always been centre stage. It was during this time that Kelly's original sponsor in British intelligence, the late Brian Jones, began to lose sight of him.

Jones had brought Kelly aboard the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) to help with the debriefing of a Soviet defector. By the late 90s, according to Jones, Kelly had become a man who drifted in and out of the analytical DIS with unspecified clearance and an unclear agenda, governed by a vague and deepening relationship with the Secret Intelligence Service. Underlying this was Kelly's role at Unscom, supposedly a multinational disarmament body, but in reality a tool that western intelligence used to enforce sanctions, encourage regime change and provide the rationale for military intervention. None of this appears to have troubled Kelly. He raised no objection to Operation Desert Fox in 1998, just as he raised none to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

In reality, Kelly was something of a dark actor himself. When Jones tried to get the language of the "September dossier" toned down, Kelly was one of those who opposed him. When it came to the laughable notion of mobile Iraqi biolabs Kelly told the BBC's Susan Watts, among others, he was "90% certain" they existed. Only after his unexplained deportation from Kuwait, when he was handcuffed, searched, and had his belongings confiscated, did he and his colleagues drop the pretence that they would find WMD. Off the record, he began briefing journalists that their existence was unlikely. To Andrew Gilligan, he said the government had suspected this all along.

I don't think Kelly ever gave an unauthorised interview in his entire life. Jones believed his post-Kuwait briefings were intended to manage public expectations after the invasion, and to make sure it was the government, not British intelligence, which got the blame for confecting claims about Iraqi WMD. But the political fallout was cataclysmic. Downing Street went on an unprecedented offensive, and Kelly found rattled senior spooks were turning against him. Just as politicians and mandarins were traducing his professional reputation, counter-intelligence was set to tear his private life apart. Shortly before his death his top secret clearance was revoked. It would have heralded the most intrusive investigation imaginable, and to save himself and his family from the indignity, he walked up Harrowdown Hill and reduced his security risk to zero.

It is a tale bereft of heroes, and so it displeases every camp. Some of those who believe Kelly was murdered have called me an intelligence plant. Conversely, pro-war "rationalists" have said I am driven by an anti-Blair vendetta. Meanwhile it appears that intervention in the Middle East is imminent yet again, and I have no doubt we will see more David Kellys in the British press. Meticulous? Of course. Cautious and reserved? Naturally. On message? Always, and without fail, until the cracks begin to show. I fear that as long as this country values theatre over debate, we will never be short of dark actors.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

“You are not to speak about David Kelly” 

Diplomat was banned from talking about Dr David Kelly when giving evidence at Iraq Inquiry
  • Carne Ross told if he discussed Dr Kelly in testimony, he would be silenced
  • He intended to say a few words about him as a tribute which he had submitted earlier
By Miles Goslett

PUBLISHED: 00:48, 24 March 2013 | UPDATED: 00:49, 24 March 2013

A former British diplomat has revealed he was ‘warned’ by the senior civil servant running the Iraq Inquiry not to mention the late biological weapons expert Dr David Kelly when giving evidence.

Carne Ross, the UK’s Iraq expert at the UN Security Council between 1998 and 2002, said he was told by the ‘very aggressive’ official that if he discussed Dr Kelly during his testimony, he would be silenced.

It is understood the official who delivered the order was Margaret Aldred, secretary of the Iraq Inquiry chaired by Sir John Chilcot.

The inquiry was set up in 2009 to examine why Tony Blair took Britain into war.

Mr Ross was a close friend of Dr Kelly, a Ministry of Defence employee and world-renowned scientist who was found dead in an Oxfordshire wood in 2003. Dr Kelly had been named as the prime source of a BBC report accusing the Blair Government of lying to take Britain into the war.

Having worked with Dr Kelly for several years, Mr Ross intended to say a few words about him as a tribute which he submitted in earlier written evidence.

A 2003 public inquiry found Dr Kelly committed suicide. But successive governments have refused to hold a full coroner’s inquest, making him the only person in modern English legal history to be denied a proper inquest and fuelling claims of a cover-up.

Last month a group of doctors wrote to the chief coroner of England and Wales, Peter Thornton QC, urging him to resume the inquest which was halted in 2003. This was rejected. The revelation that a witness was informed by an inquiry official what they could and could not discuss before giving evidence raises serious questions about its impartiality.

And this weekend a senior MP who asked to remain anonymous has revealed that when he offered to submit evidence about Dr Kelly’s death to the inquiry in 2009, he was told by Chilcot personally that he ‘did not want to touch the Kelly issue’.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Mr Ross, who now runs New York-based diplomatic advisory group Independent Diplomat, recalled the day he gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry in July 2010. He said: ‘I was taken into the room where witnesses sat and shortly before I was to testify an official came in and said, “You are not to speak about David Kelly.” ’

He was told that if he did the videolink of his evidence to the press would be cut and he would have to leave. Having been warned, he kept quiet.

He said: ‘I wasn’t happy about it. I felt very strongly about David. He was a man of honesty and integrity.

‘I wanted to remember him in that setting and they prevented me for no good reason. What difference would it have made? It’s pure control freakery. It was weird. Chilcot was incredibly tense. Clearly he feared I was going to say something.’

When asked if he thought Dr Kelly killed himself, Mr Ross said: ‘I don’t know. I would like to see the people who hounded him to his death brought to account. It was as good as murder, what they did. If you publicly humiliate a man, and you drive him to his death, it’s as bad as putting hemlock in his soup.’

An Iraq Inquiry spokesman refused to comment.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ten years on from the 2003 Iraq War

Independent Voices

Monday 18 March 2013

Editorial: Iraq 10 years on - this war damaged the UK at home and abroad

After Iraq, distrust of intelligence information will last for at least a generation

The memories remain so fresh and so raw that it seems only yesterday that President George W Bush announced the start of hostilities against Iraq and Prime Minister Tony Blair defied some of the biggest popular protests this country had known to take Britain to war on US coat-tails. The early images – of the ruined presidential palace, of the toppled dictator’s statue, of the abject Saddam Hussein captured in his foxhole – have lost none of their potency. Nor have the phrases. “Stuff happens,” declared the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, of the looting of Iraq’s museums.

Yet the very mention of those names, those images and those phrases at once seems less like 10 years ago than ancient history. In so many ways, those were different times. And the misjudgements and the hubris, not to speak of the dubious legal advice, which led Britain to join the invasion of a sovereign state on a pretext that turned out to be utterly false, very soon added up to Britain’s biggest and most costly foreign policy mistake since the attack on Suez almost half a century before.

Indeed, 10 years on from “Shock and Awe”, the first massive US strikes on Baghdad, and 10 years on from the fumbled British landings at Basra, it could be argued that the Iraq war was at least as costly for Britain as Suez was. The 1956 debacle gained its landmark status as a national humiliation because it helped crush Britain’s inflated idea of its own imperial reach. By the time of Iraq, among the British public at least, there were few delusions of imperial grandeur left to be dispelled. The costs of the Iraq war lie elsewhere, as do the truths it brought home.

Joining the US invasion of Iraq cost Britain in the obvious ways of human casualties – 179 servicemen and women lost their lives – and money. A conservative estimate is that the war took just short of £10bn from the UK Exchequer. But more than 3,500 were wounded. Their care entails spending into the future, as will the mental illness suffered by many who saw combat.

Equally obvious costs include the neglect of the Afghan intervention and Britain’s view of itself as a first-ranking military power. The weaknesses of UK forces were cruelly exposed in Basra, where they forced an embarrassing exit. But the disparity in capability and equipment with US forces was glaring. Iraq has ended the notion that Britain can conduct wars simultaneously on two fronts. A small positive is that the experience of this war has convinced even a Conservative-led government that the UK must act – and plan – within its means.

Other costs are more insidious. One is the discrediting of Britain in the Arab world, which continues. Another is the diminution of trust between Britain and the US. The harm was reversed to an extent by the election of Barack Obama with his mandate for withdrawal. But any mention of intelligence-sharing now comes a cropper on the example of Iraq, where one national leader seemed to egg on another to destructive effect.

Trust in intelligence itself was also undermined. No UK government can now cite such information as a basis for military action without being ridiculed – and the distrust will last for at least a generation. Similar cynicism has stuck to politicians, and to political consensus. Only the Liberal Democrats – and a very few other MPs and elder statesmen – spoke against the war. As did The Independent, with a constancy and conviction that have been vindicated many times over.

The ease with which Mr Blair has been able to float away from his responsibility of 10 years ago and enrich himself, advising others, leaves a bitter taste. Even now, his conduct awaits its proper judgment. Successive inquiries have failed to get to the root of his historic misjudgements. And now Lord Chilcot’s four-year-old inquiry is mired in argument about the documents that we, the public, will be allowed to see. So much secrecy is unacceptable in a democracy. Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war was a thoroughly avoidable disaster which has eroded trust between politicians and public at home and undercut our standing abroad. It is nothing short of a scandal that we still have to find out exactly how and why it happened.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The CIA Iraq 'mea culpa'

Foreign Policy Features CIA Document Released to National Security Archive

"A Classified Mea Culpa on Iraq"

CIA Analysis Acknowledges Intelligence Failure on Iraq's WMDs

For more information contact:

Tom Blanton - 202/994-7000 or

Washington, DC, September 5, 2012 – The online magazine today published an extraordinary CIA document on the recent Iraq war which the National Security Archive obtained through a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request to the CIA.

The document, "Misreading Intentions: Iraq's Reaction to Inspection Created Picture of Deception," dated January 5, 2006, blames "analyst liabilities," such as neglecting to examine Iraq's deceptive behavior "through an Iraqi prism," for the failure to correctly assess the country's virtually non-existent WMD capabilities. The review was one in a series of reevaluations the agency produced of its own work after Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Archive obtained the analysis by filing a MDR request after noticing a footnote to it in a September 2006 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. MDRs are similar to Freedom of Information Act requests but are more effective in cases where a specific record can be identified, such as by title and date. It took the CIA almost six years to release the report.

The National Security Archive is a non-governmental research organization and library based at the George Washington University. As the government declassifies more such materials in response to our FOIA and MDR requests, we will continue to make them widely available.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Cracking Blair's wall

Comment is free

We're one crucial step closer to seeing Tony Blair at The Hague

Desmond Tutu has helped us see the true nature of what the former prime minister did to Iraq and increased pressure for a prosecution

George Monbiot, Monday 3 September 2012 17.30 BST

For years it seems impregnable, then suddenly the citadel collapses. An ideology, a fact, a regime appears fixed, unshakeable, almost geological. Then an inch of mortar falls, and the stonework begins to slide. Something of this kind happened over the weekend.

When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to The Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done. Tutu broke the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another – and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.

The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg principles as the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression". This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter.

That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair's cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His attorney general warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: "self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN security council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case." Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.

His foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told Blair that for the war to be legal, "i) there must be an armed attack upon a state or such an attack must be imminent; ii) the use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable; iii) the acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack." None of these conditions were met. The Cabinet Office told him: "A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers' advice, none currently exists."

Without legal justification, the attack on Iraq was an act of mass murder. It caused the deaths of between 100,000 and a million people, and ranks among the greatest crimes the world has ever seen. That Blair and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international justice: a system whose hypocrisies Tutu has exposed.

Blair's diminishing band of apologists cling to two desperate justifications. The first is that the war was automatically authorised by a prior UN resolution, 1441. But when it was discussed in the security council, both the American and British ambassadors insisted that 1441 did not authorise the use of force. The UK representative stated that "there is no 'automaticity' in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the council for discussion as required in paragraph 12." Two months later, in January 2003, the attorney general reminded Blair that "resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council".

Yet when Blair ran out of options, he and his lieutenants began arguing that 1441 authorised their war. They are still at it: on Sunday, Lord Falconer tried it out on Radio 4. Perhaps he had forgotten that it has been thoroughly discredited.

The second justification, attempted again by Blair this weekend, is that there was a moral case for invading Iraq. Yes, there was one. There was also a moral case for not invading Iraq, and this case was stronger.

But a moral case (and who has launched an aggressive war in modern times without claiming to possess one?) does not provide a legal basis. Nor was it the motivation for the attack. In September 2000, before they took office, a project run by future members of the Bush administration – including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – produced a report which said the following: "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." Their purpose, they revealed, was "maintaining American military pre-eminence". The motivation for deposing Saddam Hussein was no more moral than the motivation for arming and funding him, two decades before.

But while the case against Blair is strong, the means are weak. Twenty-nine people have been indicted in the international criminal court, and all of them are African. (Suspects in the Balkans have been indicted by a different tribunal). There's a reason for this. Until 2018 at the earliest, the court can prosecute crimes committed during the course of an illegal war, but not the crime of launching that war.

Should we be surprised? Though the Nuremberg tribunal described aggression as "the supreme international crime", several powerful states guiltily resisted its adoption. At length, in 2010, they agreed that the court would have jurisdiction over aggression, but not until 2018 or thereafter. Though the offence has been recognised in international law for 67 years, the international criminal court (unlike the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, which hear cases from before they were established) will be able to try only crimes of aggression committed beyond that date.

The other possibility is a prosecution in one of the states (there are at least 25) which have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws. Perhaps Blair's lawyers are now working through the list and cancelling a few speaking gigs.

That the prospect of prosecution currently looks remote makes it all the more important that the crime is not forgotten. To this end, in 2010 I set up a bounty fund – – to promote peaceful citizens' arrests of the former prime minister. People contribute to the fund, a quarter of which is paid out to anyone who makes an attempt which meets the rules. With our fourth payment last week, we've now disbursed more than £10,000. Our aim is the same as Tutu's: to de-normalise an act of mass murder, to keep it in the public mind and to maintain the pressure for a prosecution.

That looked, until this weekend, like an almost impossible prospect. But when the masonry begins to crack, impossible hopes can become first plausible, then inexorable. Blair will now find himself shut out of places where he was once welcome. One day he may find himself shut in.

Twitter: @GeorgeMonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article is available at

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chilcot report goes over the horizon

Iraq Inquiry press release:

Sir John Chilcot has written to the Prime Minister to inform him of the Inquiry’s progress and to indicate when the Inquiry may complete its work.

The Iraq Inquiry has concluded its public hearings and is currently analysing the written and oral evidence it has received and drafting its report. Pulling together and analysing the evidence and identifying the lessons, for a report that covers so wide and complex a range of issues and a time period of some nine years, is a significant task. Very considerable progress has already been made, but there is still much to be done.

As well as drafting the report, the Inquiry is negotiating with the Government the declassification of a significant volume of currently classified material, in order that it may be quoted in, or published alongside, the Inquiry’s report. Work on this substantial task, which involves the detailed scrutiny of many thousands of documents, is already under way. Significant progress has been made, but there will continue to be a series of further requests as drafting progresses.

The Inquiry has previously indicated that it intends to undertake a process of Maxwellisation, whereby individuals who may be criticised in the report will be informed of the proposed criticism (and provided with relevant parts of the draft report in which the criticism is made) in order that they may make representations to the Inquiry Committee before the report is finalised.

The Inquiry has advised the Prime Minister that it will be in a position to begin the process of writing to any individuals that may be criticised by the middle of 2013.

The Inquiry’s report will be submitted to the Prime Minister as soon as possible after that process is complete. The Inquiry understands that it will then be published in Parliament. A copy will also be available on this website.

Sir John Chilcot, the Inquiry Chairman, wrote to the Prime Minister on Friday 13 July 2012 to provide an update on the Inquiry’s progress and an outline of the scope of the Inquiry’s report. The Inquiry published this letter on Monday 16 July.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Blair - "you know I'll never win this argument..."

Campbell reveals: Blair did hide Iraq War legal advice

Former PM rejects spin doctor's claim that Attorney General's doubts kept from Cabinet

James Cusick
Monday 25 June 2012
Tony Blair dismissed his former spin doctor's account of what his Cabinet was told about the Iraq War's legality as "absolutely not true" yesterday.

In the latest volume of his diaries, Alastair Campbell claims Lord Goldsmith, then Attorney General, was prevented in 2002 from telling the Cabinet about his "doubts" on the legal basis for war.

But in an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, Mr Blair denied he had intervened to stop Lord Goldsmith giving the Cabinet the "reality" of the legal position Britain faced if it went to war against Saddam Hussein's regime without the backing of the United Nations.

According to Mr Campbell's diaries, Mr Blair feared any nuanced evaluation would give too much ammunition to the Cabinet's leading anti-war critics, Robin Cook and Clare Short.

The issue of the Iraq War's legality has continued to hound Mr Blair since he left Downing Street in 2007. Following a story in yesterday's Independent on Sunday which claimed Mr Blair had "misled" the Cabinet, the former Prime Minister told the BBC, "People like The Independent – you know I'll never win this argument with them over Iraq."

However Mr Campbell's account chimes with much of the detail that Lord Goldsmith gave the Chilcot Inquiry in 2010. In his written testimony, the Cabinet's former senior legal adviser said he had been kept out of the loop during key meetings in late 2002. He said his legal advice on UN negotiating tactics "was not sought".

Other documents released to the inquiry showed Lord Goldsmith was continuing to warn about the legal consequences of invading Iraq without fresh UN authority right up to the beginning of February 2003.

According to the Campbell diaries: "TB [Tony Blair] also made it clear he did not particularly want Goldsmith to launch a detailed discussion at Cabinet ... With the mood as it was with Robin [Cook] and Clare [Short]... he knew if there was any nuance at all, they would be straight out saying the advice was that it was not legal, the AG [attorney general] was casting doubt on the war. Peter Goldsmith was clear that he was casting doubt in some circumstances and if Cabinet had to approve the policy of going to war, he had to be able to put the reality to them."

Mr Blair told the BBC: "The notion that the Cabinet never discussed this issue is absurd".

Some MPs, including the former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, have demanded that Sir John Chilcot reconvene a special session of his inquiry to re-examine the accounts given by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and Lord Goldsmith.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Alastair Campbell - Countdown to Iraq - coming soon

(The publication of this last part of Alastair Campbell's diaries was originally expected to have taken place at the end of last year. Whether or not the delays currently being experienced by the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry have also affected this release remains to be seen.)

Alastair Campbell Releases The Campbell Diaries: Volume IV with The Mile End Group

On 20 June, 2012, the Mile End Group will be hosting the official launch of The Burden of Power: Volume 4: Countdown to Iraq; the fourth and final volume of Alastair Campbell’s highly revealing and insightful diaries. Alastair Campbell will be appearing at Queen Mary University of London in conversation with John Rentoul, chief political commentator for the Independent on Sunday and visiting professor at Queen Mary, from 6.30 pm. A drinks reception will follow.

Volume Four of the Campbell Diaries, which begins on 11 September, 2001, and ends with Campbell leaving office, covers the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the continued pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland, and the internal power struggles within the New Labour government. It is perhaps the most highly anticipated volume, dealing with Tony Blair’s most controversial decisions, and written contemporaneously by one of the best-placed political diarists in recent history.

As Blair’s Chief Press Secretary and Official Spokesman, and later Director of Communications and Strategy, Alastair Campbell is able to offer tremendous insight into the inner workings of New Labour at the highest level. His appearance at the Mile End Group also represents the launch of an incredible source for contemporary historians; having previously appeared at Queen Mary's New Labour in Government undergraduate course, the Mile End Group is delighted to welcome Campbell back to the university.

To apply for tickets, please email providing your full name and organization. Tickets are extremely limited. Further details regarding the event will be sent to successful applicants via email a week beforehand.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Attorney General challenged by Andrew Watt

Dr Andrew Watt has today published the covering letter relating to his Section
13(1)(b) of the Coroners Act 1988 application to the Attorney General asking him to seek from the High Court an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr David Kelly.

This is now the third Section 13 application concerning the death of Dr Kelly to have been made. The first was by Norman Baker MP in September 2008, the second by Dr C. Stephen Frost and others in September 2010. Dr David Halpin applied for permission to bring judicial review proceedings against this last decision in September 2011, his application was subsequently rejected.

The text of this covering letter is as follows:

20th April 2012

Dominic Grieve QC MP
Attorney General’s Office
20 Victoria Street

Dear Mr Grieve,

Enclosed with this letter is hard copy of the 18 page Application dated 18th April 2012 to the UK Attorney General in terms of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988, seeking that the Attorney General apply to the High Court to seek an Order that an inquest be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly.

Briefly, the document shows that the body of Dr. David Kelly was in one position at 09.15 on 18th July 2003. An hour or so later it was in a different position. The evidence indicates that the body was moved by person or persons unknown.

It seems to me that any rational consideration of this important matter, in all the circumstances, must lead an honest Attorney General to acknowledge that an inquest might return a different verdict.

Such an assessment would lead to an application to the High Court seeking an Order that an inquest be held into the suspicious death of Dr. Kelly.

You are aware that I have been severely critical of your handling of the Section 13 application initially lodged by Dr. Stephen Frost and colleagues.

I view your consideration of Dr. Frost’s Section 13 application as having been deficient and dishonest.

Those causes for concern were obvious to me during your statement to the House of Commons on 9th June 2011.

On 12th June 2011 I invited you to resign as Attorney General.

I again suggest that you consider your position.

Given the serious implications for your political and legal career it occurs to me that you may wish to “tough it out”.

In that eventuality, it is my considered opinion that, given what I believe to be the biased and dishonest assessment you carried out in response to Dr. Frost’s Application, it is highly questionable whether you can fairly conduct an independent review of this present Application in the manner which an honest Attorney General has a duty to do in the public interest.

You may also wish carefully to consider the implications for your credibility as Attorney General of your concealing the serious questions put to you by me on 13th May 2011 about the veracity of ACC Page at the Hutton Inquiry. Serious questions which you concealed from the House of Commons on 9th June 2011.

Mr. Brian Spencer, co-applicant, is writing to you separately to give you signed confirmation that the Application is in our joint names.

In the first instance, I would be grateful if you would acknowledge receipt of this letter and its attachment.

I look forward with interest to learning how you propose to proceed.

Yours sincerely

(Dr) Andrew Watt


Dr Frost has now published the full text of Andrew Watt's application to the Attorney General:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Suicide riddle of weapons expert who worked with David Kelly: Scientist tells wife he is going for a walk, then takes his life in a field... just like his friend
  • Body of Dr Richard Holmes discovered in a field four miles from the Porton Down defence establishment
  • Police said there were no suspicious circumstances in latest case but revealed scientist was 'under a great deal of stress'
  • He resigned from Porton Down last month, but it is unclear why
By Nick Constable and Ian Gallagher

PUBLISHED: 22:58, 21 April 2012 | UPDATED: 22:58, 21 April 2012

A weapons expert who worked with Dr David Kelly at the Government’s secret chemical warfare laboratory has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

In circumstances strongly reminiscent of Dr Kelly’s own mysterious death nine years ago, the body of Dr Richard Holmes was discovered in a field four miles from the Porton Down defence establishment in Wiltshire. It is not yet known how he died.

Mr Holmes, 48, had gone missing two days earlier after telling his wife he was going out for a walk – just as Dr Kelly did before he was found dead at an Oxfordshire beauty spot in July 2003.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances in the latest case but revealed that Dr Holmes had ‘recently been under a great deal of stress’.

He resigned from Porton Down last month, although the centre yesterday refused to explain why. Inevitably, the parallels between the two cases will arouse the suspicions of conspiracy theorists.

Despite Lord Hutton’s ruling eight years ago that Dr Kelly committed suicide, many people – among them a group of doctors – believe his inquiry was insufficient and have demanded a full inquest.

Some believe Dr Kelly, who kept an office at Porton Down right up until his death, was murdered. He was outed as being the source of a BBC report that Downing Street ‘sexed up’ evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war.

Although it is not clear if the two scientists were close, one source told The Mail on Sunday that they were friendly when they worked at Porton Down in the Nineties.

At the time, Dr Holmes ran a project organising the installation of chemical protection equipment in RAF Sentinel spy planes, while Dr Kelly was head of microbiology and frequently toured the former Soviet Union as a weapons inspector.

After the first Gulf War, Dr Holmes is also thought to have worked on the production of chemical protection suits for troops. In 1991 he was the joint author of a scientific paper about an RAF chemical and biological protection system.

Yesterday, a Porton Down spokesman confirmed Dr Holmes had quit his job but declined to comment further. ‘It is not our policy to speak openly about any individual who works for us,’ she said.

Before finding his body, Wiltshire Police made a public appeal for information but warned people not to approach Dr Holmes for their own safety because they believed he had been ‘looking at information on the internet regarding self-harm and the use of toxic substances’.

Friends of Dr Holmes say this disclosure irritated his family, who questioned why a scientist engaged in chemical warfare research would ‘need to Google toxic substances’.

Dr Holmes’s widow, Susan, is a chemist who also works at Porton Down as head of business administration.

One of the Government’s most sensitive and secretive military facilities, the site has long been the focus of controversy.

Three years ago hundreds of ex-servicemen who were used as chemical warfare guinea pigs there between 1939 and 1989 were given compensation and an apology from the Ministry of Defence.

They were tested with the nerve agent sarin, but some of those involved claimed they had been told they were taking part in cold-remedy trials.

Many suffered serious illnesses after exposure to the gas, which was developed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

An inquest into Dr Holmes’s death was opened and adjourned by Wiltshire Coroner David Ridley last week. Coroner’s officer Paul Tranter said Dr Holmes’s family had grown concerned for his wellbeing after he failed to return from a walk on April 11.

A search party involving police and members of the other emergency services began combing waste ground close to his home in the Bishopsdown area of Salisbury.

Police discovered his body half a mile away in a field used regularly by dog-walkers and joggers in the village of Laverstock.

Mr Tranter said the results of tests carried out to establish the cause of death would not be known for several weeks. He added: ‘Police do not consider this death to be suspicious in any way, nor do they believe there was any third-party involvement.’

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Renewed call for inquest

Doctors renew call for Kelly inquest

Published on Saturday 21 April 2012 00:03

DOCTORS campaigning for a fresh inquiry into the death of scientist David Kelly have submitted a new application calling for Attorney General Dominic Grieve to ask the High Court to order an inquest.

Mr Grieve rejected calls for an inquest last June, following a lengthy review of the case of Dr Kelly, whose body was found in 2003, shortly after he was identified as the source of a report about the government’s dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The attorney general found there was no possibility that an inquest would reach a different conclusion from the Hutton Inquiry, which found in 2004 that Dr Kelly committed suicide.

But Dr Andrew Watt and Brian Spencer argue that Mr Grieve relied on a “misleading and inadequate assessment” of evidence that Dr Kelly’s body may have been moved in the hour after its initial discovery by volunteer searchers.

(N.B. Dr Andrew Watt has recently opened a new blog entitled "Who Killed David Kelly". It can be found here, and relates to his provisional attempt at writing a book of the same name.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

TVP joined Kelly campaign FB group

Police 'hacked website' of David Kelly campaign group, claim activists

By Miles Goslett And Abul Taher

01:23, 11 March 2012 UPDATED: 01:23, 11 March 2012

A police force has been accused of illegally accessing information from a Facebook group that is campaigning for an inquest into the death of weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.

At a tribunal next month, Thames Valley Police, which conducted the original investigation into Dr Kelly's death, will be forced to explain how it obtained information from the private site.

Activists claim the force hacked into the Facebook page of a group called 'Dr David Kelly and related matters of international importance'.

The force has denied the claim and said the information was taken from publicly available sources.

Thames Valley Police is said to have accessed the page to find evidence to support its decision to refuse a Freedom of Information request by one of the group's members, Peter Beswick.

The evidence was sent to the Information Commissioner's Office, the appeals body for all refused FOI requests.

The ICO upheld Thames Valley's decision, but in its judgment mentioned the Facebook page, and even quoted a posting made by Mr Beswick which was obtained by police.

Mr Beswick and other members of the group believe the information was accessed improperly, and will demand an explanation at the tribunal, where they will appeal against the ICO's decision.

The allegation comes as the Metropolitan Police is conducting a high-profile investigation into allegations that journalists hacked into private voicemails and email accounts.

Mr Beswick made his original request to Thames Valley Police last August, asking a series of questions about Dr Kelly, who was found dead in woods near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003.

No full inquest has ever been held because the then Labour government ruled that the Hutton Inquiry into his death was sufficient.

Thames Valley refused to answer Mr Beswick's FOI questions on its original investigation into Dr Kelly's death. It said his request was 'vexatious' and would be 'too expensive and time-consuming'.

Mr Beswick appealed to the ICO, which last month sent him a 16-page document upholding Thames Valley's decision.

But the document says Thames Valley alerted the ICO to the existence of the Facebook page called 'Dr David Kelly and related matters of international importance'.

It then quoted a line from the page – made by Mr Beswick under his alias Hampshire Hog – which reads: 'The Information Commissioner is currently making a decision into whether or not my FOI request regarding the position of DK's [David Kelly] body to TVP [Thames Valley Police] was vexatious.'

The group claims Thames Valley could have read this line only by illegally accessing the Facebook page.

The force said it had not accessed the page but had found the quote in a similar Facebook page called 'Re-open the Inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly'.

But a search by Mr Beswick has failed to find any evidence of the quote anywhere else on Facebook.

And in an email to Mr Beswick, ICO officer Jonathan Slee states: 'In relation to the Facebook group – which I did note was a closed group – my understanding is that TVP have joined this group in order to access the material it provided as part of its submissions.'

Links to the Facebook groups concerned (log-in required):



Thursday, March 01, 2012

Oxfordshire Coroner - 'never under political pressure'

Retiring coroner speaks out over David Kelly 'conspiracy'

By Debbie Waite

Monday 27th February 2012

CORONER Nicholas Gardiner last night promised he was no political stooge over the death of Government weapons inspector Dr David Kelly.

In an exclusive interview to mark his retirement, Mr Gardiner spoke for the first time about his controversial decision not to hold a full inquest into Dr Kelly’s death near his home in Southmoor.
Dr Kelly had been ‘outed’ as the source discrediting the Government’s claims over Iraq’s weapons capability and his death sparked myriad conspiracy theories.

Mr Gardiner’s decision following Lord Hutton’s inquiry was seen by some as further evidence of a cover-up.

Just last December the High Court refused a bid to order the Attorney General into re-opening the inquest and now Mr Gardiner revealed : “I was never under any political pressure.”

Mr Gardiner added: “Whatever conspiracy theories people bring forward – and I think they will be brought forward forever – I don’t think I would have done anything differently.

“My duty is to determine whether there are exceptional reasons that warrant an inquest and if I thought there had been, I would have.

“The Government was always very proper.”

There have been between 50,000 and 60,000 deaths since Mr Gardiner took over the role of Coroner from his father Thomas in 1981.

Of those, around 9,000 – 300 a year – have resulted in inquests. But the Dr Kelly case undoubtedly remains the most famous.

The 69-year-old, who will retire as Oxfordshire Coroner in April, said: “When I received a telephone call that day from Detective Superintendent Young telling me they had found the body, my heart hit my boots.”

Just before his death, Dr Kelly had been exposed as the source of a BBC news report questioning the grounds for war in Iraq.

But while a post mortem examination revealed his wrist had been slashed, some – including qualified doctors – questioned whether Dr Kelly had taken his own life. And the rumour mill went into overdrive.

Mr Gardiner opened the inquest into Dr Kelly’s death on July 21, 2003, three days after his body was discovered in woods at Harrowdown Hill, close to his home in Southmoor.

Prime Minister Tony Blair then commissioned the Hutton Inquiry which concluded Dr Kelly, 59, died from blood loss after cutting his wrist with a gardening knife.

But conspiracy theories continued, along with calls for an official inquest.

On March 16, 2004, Mr Gardiner announced that, after considering the Hutton report, there was “no exceptional reason” for the inquest to be resumed.

Asked whether he thinks Dr Kelly will ever receive an inquest, Mr Gardiner said: “While I think it is unlikely there will be one, you can never rule it out. I did and still do have tremendous sympathy for the poor man’s family.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ICO - Kelly FOIA requests 'vexatious'


23 February 2012, 16:06:00

The complainant requested information from Thames Valley Police (the Police) about the death of former weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, in 2003. The Police refused to comply with these requests on the basis that they were vexatious. The Commissioner’s decision is that the Police were entitled to refuse to comply with these requests on the basis that they were vexatious.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kelly inquest denial judgement published

Dr Stephen Frost has now published Mr Justice Nicol's judgement relating to Dr David Halpin's application to the High Court for permission to apply for judicial review of a decision of the Attorney-General to refuse to apply to the court, under section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 for an inquest or further inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly:

(N.B. Line-breaks edited for easier reading)

Transcript of Mr Justice Nicol's judgement on 19 December 2011

Neutral Citation Number: [2011] EWHC 3759 (Admin)
Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2A 2LL

Monday, 19th December 2011

B e f o r e:








Computer-Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
WordWave International Limited
A Merrill Communications Company
165 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)

Mr John Cooper QC (instructed by Withers LLP) appeared on behalf of the Claimant

Mr Jonathan Swift QC and Mr Jonathan Glasson (instructed by Treasury Solicitor)
appeared on behalf of the Defendant


(As Approved by the Court)


1. MR JUSTICE NICOL: This is an application for permission to apply for judicial review of a decision of the Attorney-General to refuse to apply to the court, under section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 for an inquest or further inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

2. The claimant is one of a group of doctors who in September 2010 asked the Attorney to exercise his power under that provision to make application to the court.

3. As is well-known, Dr David Kelly CMG was an eminent scientist who had a high reputation both nationally and internationally as a weapons inspector. He came to public attention in July 2003, when he was identified as the alleged source of a news report by the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. Request was made for him to give evidence before the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee on Thursday 10th July. He gave evidence on 15th and 16th July. On 18th July 2003 his body was found in a wood at Harrowdown Hill, a few miles away from his home in Oxfordshire.

4. Later that same day Lord Hutton, a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and who was at the time a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, was requested by the Right Honourable Lord Falconer of Thoroton, then the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, to conduct an inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly. His terms of reference were urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly.

5. On 21st July 2003 an inquest into Dr Kelly's death was opened by Mr Nicolas Gardiner, Her Majesty's Coroner for Oxfordshire. On 12th August 2003 Lord Falconer invoked section 17A of the Coroners Act and informed the Oxfordshire Coroner that an inquiry had been established to investigate Dr Kelly's death. Section 17A(i) says this:

"(1)If on an inquest into a death the coroner is informed by the Lord Chancellor before the conclusion of the inquest that—

(a)a public inquiry conducted or chaired by a judge is being, or is to be, held into the events surrounding the death; and

(b)the Lord Chancellor considers that the cause of death is likely to be adequately investigated by the inquiry.

the coroner shall, in the absence of any exceptional reason to the contrary, adjourn the inquest and, if a jury has been summoned, may, if he thinks fit, discharge them."

6. The inquest was in accordance with that provision adjourned. On 28th January 2004 Lord Hutton completed his report and submitted it to Lord Falconer. The report was laid before the Houses of Parliament on that date and statements were made in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister and, in the House of Lords, by the Lord Chancellor the same afternoon. Lord Hutton came to the conclusion that Dr Kelly took his own life in the wood at Harrowdown Hill at a time between 4.15 pm on 17th July and 1.15 am on 18th July 2003, and that the principal cause of death was bleeding from incised wounds to the left wrist which Dr Kelly inflicted on himself with the knife found beside his body. It is probable that the ingestion of an excess amount of Coproxamol tablets coupled with apparently clinical silent coronary artery disease would both have played a part in bringing about death more certainly and more rapidly than would otherwise have been the case. Accordingly the causes of death are 1A haemorrhage, 1B incised wounds to the left wrist, 2 Coproxamol ingestion coronary arteriosclerosis. He also concluded that no other person was involved in the death of Dr Kelly and gave his reasons for that.

7. Section 17A(4) also says:

"(4)A coroner may only resume an inquest which has been adjourned in compliance with subsection (1) above if in his opinion there is exceptional reason for doing so; and he shall not do so—

(a)before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the findings of the public inquiry are published; or

(b)if the Lord Chancellor notifies the coroner that this paragraph applies, before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the public inquiry is concluded."

8. On 16th March 2004 the Oxfordshire Coroner held a further public hearing to determine whether to resume the inquest into Dr Kelly's death. He gave advance notification of his intention do so. In a subsequent letter to the Attorney-General's Office of 8th December 2010, the Coroner said this:

"I was anxious to ensure, so far as possible, anyone who considered themselves properly interested should have the opportunity of making representations to me."

9. The hearing that took place on 16th March 2004 was attended by, amongst others, representatives of the Kelly family and the UK Government. Counsel for the family argued that there were no exceptional reasons justifying the resumption of the inquest. On behalf of the government, no submissions were made.

10. The Coroner considered the matter and in a considered and careful decision, concluded that there were no exceptional reasons to justify the resumption of the inquest.

11. The request which the claimant and his colleagues made to the Attorney-General, was for the Attorney to exercise his powers under section 13 of the Coroners Act. That says as follows:

"(1)This section applies where, on an application by or under the authority of the Attorney-General, the High Court is satisfied as respects a coroner ('the coroner concerned') either—

(a)that he refuses or neglects to hold an inquest which ought to be held; or

(b)where an inquest has been held by him, that (whether by reason of fraud, rejection of evidence, irregularity of proceedings, insufficiency of inquiry, the discovery of new facts or evidence or otherwise) it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice that another inquest should be held.

(2)The High Court may—

(a)order an inquest or, as the case may be, another inquest to be held into the death either—

(i)by the coroner concerned; or

(ii)by the coroner for another district in the same administrative area;

(b)order the coroner concerned to pay such costs of and incidental to the application as to the court may appear just; and

(c)where an inquest has been held, quash the inquisition on that inquest.

(3)In relation to an inquest held under subsection (2)(a)(ii) above, the coroner by whom it is held shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as if he were the coroner for the district of the coroner concerned."

12. In this case the claimant sought to persuade the Attorney-General that an application should be made to the court for a number of reasons. In summary they were as follows.

First, Lord Falconer's decision to appoint Lord Hutton to conduct an inquiry was said to have been unlawful and an interference with the inquisitorial process that would otherwise have been conducted. Secondly, there were criticisms which the claimant and his colleagues made of certain features of Lord Hutton's investigation and its adequacy or rather alleged inadequacy. Thirdly, it is said that, because Lord Hutton was appointed to conduct an inquiry on an ad hoc basis and because therefore he lacked power to summon witnesses or examine them on oath, there was necessarily a deficiency in the investigation which he could conduct and, because what he conducted was not a statutory inquest, he was unable to make the recommendations that a Coroner could have made pursuant to rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984, 1984 SI No 552.

Further, it is said that there had been a considerable quantity of new evidence that had been assembled and that new evidence ought to be considered by a freshly summoned inquest.

13. As can be seen from section 13(1) there are two alternatives that may justify an application by the Attorney-General. One is where a Coroner refuses or neglects to hold an inquest which ought to be held, and, second, is where an inquest has been held. The Attorney in this case was required to consider which of those two alternatives was applicable in the present situation ie. where an inquest had been started but not completed.

14. The conclusion that he reached was that there had in substance and in practice not been an inquest and therefore section 13(1)(a) was the applicable provision. If I may say so, sensibly, the Attorney decided, since the matter was not clear cut, to consider the application that was made to him, on the alternative basis that it should be dealt with under section 13(1)(b).

15. There is another pair of alternatives in section 13(1). That is, the Attorney may authorise another person to make an application to the High Court with his authority Alternatively the Attorney can make the application himself.

16. Mr Swift QC on the Attorney-General's behalf did not consider that there was a difference in test, according to which of those alternatives was to be adopted. My provisional view is that he was correct in this regard. Mr Cooper QC for the claimant, did not argue for a contrary position.

17. There have been a number of authorities on the test which is to be applied by the court if an application is made to it under section 13. In R (on the application of Sutovic) v HM Coroner for the Northern District of Greater London [2006] EWHC 1095 (Admin), the Divisional Court reviewed the authorities. At paragraph 54 it said this:

"The power contained in section 13(1)(b) is stated in very broad terms. The necessity or desirability of another inquest may arise by reason of one of the listed matters 'or otherwise'. Notwithstanding the width of the statutory words, its exercise by courts shows that the factors of central importance are an assessment of the possibility (as opposed to the probability) of a different verdict, the number of shortcomings in the original inquest, and the need to investigate matters raised by new evidence which had not been investigated at the inquest... 55. In cases in which the court is satisfied that a different verdict is not possible or doubts that it would be, the fact that the deceased died in custody may be 'a compelling additional factor'... This is because of the need (see paragraph [37] above) in such cases for an investigatory regime which will not only expose past violations of obligations under Article 2 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] but also promote measures to prevent or minimise the risk of future violations. The lapse of time since the death is a factor that has generally been seen as a factor against ordering a further inquest... but this is not always so ... it was stated that a new inquest may be ordered even if there is a high probability that the verdict would be the same."

18. It is clear from that and other authorities therefore, that the task of the court would not be to decide whether there is a probability of a fresh inquest returning a verdict of the same kind but whether there is a possibility that another inquest may return a different verdict.

19. There is an initial matter which is raised by the Attorney-General in his summary grounds of resistance to this application and that is whether the court has jurisdiction to review the decision of the Attorney-General not to institute proceedings. Two authorities in particular are relied upon by the Attorney-General. The first is Queen v Attorney-General ex parte Ferranti. On 1st July 1994 Popplewell J concluded that the court had no jurisdiction. The matter went to the Court of Appeal which on 8th February 1995 was prepared to assume, without deciding the question of jurisdiction. It held that the Attorney-General's decision in that case anyway could not be regarded as even arguably unlawful.

20. The second case on which the Attorney-General in particular relies is Queen v Solicitor-General ex parte Michelle and Lisa Taylor, a decision of the Divisional Court on 31st July 1995. That was a case concerning the ability of two people who had been facing criminal proceedings to compel the Solicitor-General to bring proceedings for contempt of court. Section 7 of the Contempt of Court Act provides that such an application can only be made by or with the permission of the Attorney-General. The Divisional Court concluded that there was no jurisdiction to review the refusal of the Solicitor-General to give authorisation for such proceedings. Both these authorities in turn both go back to the decision of the House of Lords in Gouriet v The Union of Post Office Workers [1978] AC 435.

21. Mr Swift made clear that the Attorney continued to rely on those authorities for the proposition that this application was not justiciable. However, realistically, he appreciated that the Attorney needed to address the merits of the claimant's application as well.

22. If, hypothetically, there were substantial grounds for considering that the Attorney had acted unlawfully in refusing his consent, it would be an unattractive position, to put it neutrally, if that illegality was beyond the power of the courts to judicially review. I was grateful therefore for Mr Swift turning to the merits of the case.

23. Mr Cooper QC, explained that the background to the application was the concern that the claimant's rights under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been improperly interfered with by Lord Falconer's decision to appoint Lord Hutton to conduct an independent inquiry. Article 6 provides that in the determination, amongst other things, of a person's civil rights and obligations, there is a right to an independent tribunal. The concept of a civil right has been said on many occasions by the Strasbourg Court and by the domestic courts to be an autonomous concept i.e. it is to be defined and determined by reference to Strasbourg case law rather than by the meaning which might be attributed to that expression in any one of the contracting States that are party to the Convention.

24. In this case, Mr Cooper submits that the civil right in question was that of the claimant, either to be added as an interested party at an inquest of Dr Kelly, or for his application to be treated as an interested party to be properly considered. The phrase "an interested party" is the common shorthand expression referring to Rule 20 of the Coroners Rules. That says:

"(1) Without prejudice to any enactment with regard to the examination of witnesses at an inquest, any person who satisfies the coroner that he is within paragraph (2) shall be entitled to examine any witness at an inquest either in person or by [an authorised advocate as defined by section 119(1) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990]:[6] Provided that...

(2) Each of the following persons shall have the rights conferred by
paragraph (1)..."

A number of categories are listed between paragraphs (a) to (g). Mr Cooper does not suggest that the claimant comes within any of them. However, there is then paragraph (h) which reads:

"any other person who, in the opinion of the coroner, is a properly interested person."

25. Mr Cooper submitted that the claimant would be such an interested person because of the investigations which he and his colleagues had conducted into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly and the contribution that they could make to a properly conducted inquest.

26. Mr Swift makes two responses. First, even if it be assumed that the claimant would have an arguable case to be treated as an interested party, that is not anywhere near to being the kind of right which Strasbourg would recognise as a "civil right". Second, he submits that if and to the extent that there was any interference with that right, it was not in consequence of Lord Falconer's decision to appoint Lord Hutton to conduct the inquiry but as a result of the Coroner's decision not to resume the inquest. Any determination therefore flowed from that decision, not from Lord Falconer's.

27. In my judgment Mr Cooper was not able to satisfy me that it is even arguable that the right he advanced on the claimant's behalf was of the nature of a "civil right" as the term is understood in the context of Article 6. Second, I accept Mr Swift's submission that it would have been open to the Coroner to resume the inquest notwithstanding Lord Hutton's inquiry. He would have had to be satisfied that there were exceptional reasons to justify doing so. But, if and so far as he was persuaded that the inquiry by Lord Hutton was deficient and he had not adequately investigated the cause of Dr Kelly's death, or had not sufficiently probed the witnesses who were called by Lord Hutton, then it would have been open to him to do so. In any event, as Mr Swift argued, it was the decision of the Coroner not to resume the inquest, which had the effect of curtailing any issue as to whether interested parties could take part or further part in the inquisitorial proceedings.

28. Mr Cooper made a more general attack on what Lord Falconer had done in 2003 as being a violation of the constitutional principle of the separation of powers. Phrases of that kind need to be unpacked. Many of the complaints which in the past would have been characterised in that way are now dealt with as examples of the impact of the European Convention on Human Rights. In legal terms all that Lord Falconer was doing in 2003 was exercising his power under section 17A(I) to inform the Coroner that an inquiry chaired by a judge was being held and his opinion the cause of death was likely to be investigated adequately by that inquiry. In my judgment that involved no constitutional impropriety. Lord Falconer was simply exercising a statutory power that Parliament had given to him.

29. The claimant and his colleagues made a number of criticisms of the investigation which Lord Hutton had carried out. As part of his consideration of their application the Attorney-General went back to Lord Hutton and asked for certain comments from him.

30. In the course of his oral submissions, Mr Cooper focused particularly on the fact that Lord Hutton did not have the power to summon witnesses or administer an oath. That was one of the matters on which the Attorney asked Lord Hutton to comment. Lord Hutton responded that no one whom he would have wished to come before him and give evidence had refused, and therefore the lack of a power to summon witnesses was, in his view, immaterial. Lord Hutton also commented that he did not consider the absence of evidence being given on oath was of any significance. He observed that much of the evidence in relation to the causes of Dr Kelly's death was scientific and expert evidence, where the presence or absence of an oath is not likely to be of significance. He also commented that there had not been a suggestion from any of the parties that any of the lay witnesses who gave evidence bearing on the cause of death had a reason to lie. Overall therefore, he considered that the absence a power to require evidence to be given on oath was of any particular significance. Mr Cooper suggested that this was to denigrate an important part of procedures which are commonplace in courts and that such playing down of the significance evidence being given on oath should not be allowed to stand.

31. In my judgment though, these were all matters for the Attorney-General to consider as part of his overall consideration as to whether he ought to bring an application before the court under section 13. He was entitled to take the view that in the circumstances of this particular case, the absence of the oath by witnesses to the inquiry was not of particular significance and would not therefore play a substantial part in the overall consideration as to whether such an application should be brought.

32. Mr Cooper also commented that because Lord Hutton was conducting an ad hoc inquiry, he would not have had a power to make recommendations as a Coroner would have had under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules. Rule 43 says this:

"A coroner who believes that action should be taken to prevent the recurrence of fatalities similar to that in respect of which the inquest is being held may announce at the inquest that he is reporting the matter in writing to the person or authority who may have power to take such action and he may report the matter accordingly." The Attorney-General did not place significance on that. In my judgment, he was entitled so to do. Lord Hutton's inquiry was conducted in a blaze of publicity. His report attracted enormous public attention. It is not arguable that the absence of his power to make a Rule 43 report would have been of particular significance.

33. A very substantial part of the material presented to the Attorney-General was new evidence or new commentary which the claimant had assembled. The Attorney-General's response went through each of the points made by the claimant and his colleagues in a schedule running to 60 pages and 169 items. It was plainly a very detailed response. That is perhaps unsurprising given that on 16th March 2010 Dominic Grieve QC MP who is now the Attorney-General but who was then the Shadow Secretary of State for Justice had written to Dr Michael Powers QC about investigations that had been made into the death of Dr David Kelly.

34. Mr Grieve said:

"I am aware of the work of the Doctors Group on challenging Lord Hutton's findings. It seems to me that they have been able to make an impressive and cogent case. In the absence of being in government it is impossible to make judgment on the reasons for withholding medical and scientific evidence. However this is something I would review if in government as I am conscious this is a matter where the public have not be reassured that the Hutton inquiry satisfactorily resolved the matter." (quote unchecked)

35. In his statement to Parliament, at which the detailed responses to the new evidence were presented, the Attorney-General also referred to material that he had gathered as part of his consideration of the request. It included a further report from a Home Office pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd, and a report from a toxicologist, Professor Flanagan. He also assembled comments and statements from Thames Valley Police who had been involved in the initial investigation. He said this:

"I have concluded that the evidence that Dr David Kelly took his own life is overwhelmingly strong. The test set out by section 13 of the Coroners Act is not met."

A little later on in his statement he said:

"There is no possibility of a different verdict on the basis of the evidence of Dr Shepherd and Professor Flanagan."

And repeated:

"In my view the evidence that Dr Kelly took his own life is overwhelming and it would not be even necessary or desirable in the public interest to seek a new inquest."

36. In the course of the hearing I questioned with Mr Swift whether the Attorney-General had in those passages confused the role of the court, which would have to ask itself whether it would be desirable or necessary in the interests of justice for a fresh inquest to be held, with his role which was whether to bring an application for such relief before the court. Mr Swift responded that it was material for the Attorney-General to reach his own conclusion as to the ultimate issue that the court would be invited to ask, since it would be the Attorney who would be the moving party seeking precisely that relief. But in any event, even if there were some lower threshold test which the Attorney ought to have asked himself, the strength of the views which he expressed were such that it would be quite clear how any such lower threshold test would be answered. I was satisfied by that response.

37. In terms of the remainder of the challenge by the claimant, it is in essence an irrationality challenge, that is an argument that no reasonable Attorney-General could reach the conclusion which the Attorney did that the material presented by the claimant and his colleagues could not lead to the conclusion that an application should be properly brought before the court.

38. An irrationality challenge always has to cross a high threshold. This is adopted by the court in recognition of the fact that its task is a secondary one. It is reviewing the decision which Parliament has entrusted to some other public body or official. In this case, by section 13, Parliament has given to the Attorney-General the important filtering decision as to whether or not to make an application for a fresh inquest to the court.

39. In his reply, Mr Cooper referred to the case of Duggan v The Coroner for Northern District of Greater London [2010] EWHC 1263 (Admin). He referred to it for the proposition that even if there was not the possibility of a fresh inquest reaching a different conclusion, the court may nonetheless order such a fresh inquest to take place to allay any suspicions which have been raised by the evidence produced to the court. He submits that the material presented by the claimant and his colleagues is in exactly the same category. So for it has been considered by the Attorney-General in private, without the opportunity for challenge, cross-examination and open testing that would take place in another freshly convened inquest. For that reason, the Attorney-General has misdirected himself as to what is required and the court ought to give permission for this application for judicial review to continue.

40. In my judgment though, Duggan was very much a decision on its own facts. There was assembled in that case very considerable cause for suspicion. It was an application under section 13, which was brought with the consent of the Attorney-General. It was therefore a case which had passed through that statutory filter. When one reads the decision one can well understand why that would have been so.

41. In the present case the Attorney-General has given, as I have explained, extremely detailed reasons why he did not accept any of the 169 reasons for acceding to the request that he apply to the High Court under section 13. Mr Cooper is of course right; that was a process that was not reached in the way that a court would reach it. But the whole point of the Attorney-General's power under section 13 is that he acts as a filter before the matter gets to a court. Parliament has considered it necessary and desirable to have such a filter. In my judgment, he has exercised that discretion and power lawfully and it is not arguable that he has exercised it unlawfully.

42. This matter has come before the court as an application for permission. It was not decided on the papers. When it came before Kenneth Parker J on 20th October 2011, he ordered it in for an oral hearing. He said:

"I am not satisfied that this claim is properly arguable and certain aspects appear to me to be basically misconceived. I reach that view even putting aside the formidable obstacle posed by Gouriet. Nonetheless given the particular background and the wider public concerns involved, I believe it right to allow the claimant, if so minded, to make oral submissions why, despite my view formed on the papers, permission should be granted."

43. Having heard the able submissions of Mr Cooper on behalf of the claimant, I also come to the conclusion that this is not a case where permission should be granted.

44. [The court went on to consider costs.]"