Saturday, August 27, 2011

New legal challenge for inquest

Doctors unleash legal challenge over inquest Dr David Kelly never had

By Miles Goslett

Last updated at 1:11 AM on 27th August 2011

Doctors are preparing to challenge the Government’s decision not to hold an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

In June, Attorney General Dominic Grieve ruled one out after telling Parliament evidence that the weapons inspector killed himself was ‘overwhelmingly strong’.

He was responding to legal papers sent to his office by the doctors.

But now they have told the Daily Mail that they still believe it vital that a coroner consider the case and are seeking a judicial review of Mr Grieve’s decision.

The doctors said they had spent ‘a considerable amount of time reflecting on the situation’ and had read Mr Grieve’s recent response ‘extremely carefully’.

But they concluded that there were matters which he did not address satisfactorily and they felt ‘a duty’ to carry on with their campaign.

This month the doctors were given a 33-page legal opinion by Aidan O’Neill QC, a colleague of Cherie Blair at Matrix chambers in London, indicating that Mr Grieve’s decision could be judicially reviewed, paving the way for an inquest. They are now set to proceed, managed by solicitors Withers LLP.

Following a meeting with John Cooper QC last week in which they discussed how the case would be taken forward they have now asked to be represented by him during the judicial review.

The doctors are acting because they believe there are unanswered questions about Dr Kelly’s death.

Speaking on behalf of the other three doctors involved in the case, Dr David Halpin said: ‘We need to raise about £50,000 to cover stage one legal fees to take this to the High Court but we believe this must be done. Britain has great potential for good but many people know it is now mired in mendacity. They must help the doctors get light into the dark corner of the Dr Kelly cover-up. Truth must out.’

The lawyers must be formally instructed by August 30 so that proceedings can begin by September 8, the legal deadline by which the judicial review must be under way.

The doctors’ decision is likely to cause significant unease within Whitehall. No full explanation has been supplied for closing down the inquest into Dr Kelly’s death, which began as a matter of routine immediately after his body was found. It was replaced with a public inquiry chaired by Lord Hutton, who did not hear witness evidence under oath.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one former MP told the Mail that Dr Kelly’s death ‘almost certainly encompassed highly sensitive matters of national security which is why there was no inquest’.

Dr Kelly, a world-renowned weapons inspector, allegedly killed himself after being named as the prime source of a BBC report accusing Tony Blair’s government of lying to take Britain into the Iraq war.

His body was found in woods close to his home in Oxfordshire on July 18 2003. He had booked a return plane ticket to Baghdad, where he worked, on the morning he disappeared.

The Hutton Inquiry found that he killed himself after slashing his wrist with a blunt pruning knife and overdosing on painkillers.

Mr Grieve was presented with fresh evidence by the doctors and others questioning the official finding and highlighting irregularities.

This included the fact that there were no fingerprints on five items found with Dr Kelly’s body: the knife he allegedly used to kill himself, a watch, his mobile phone, an open water bottle and two blister packs of pills he supposedly swallowed.

Despite the police knowing about the lack of fingerprints at the time this was never raised at the Hutton Inquiry and was only established years later using the Freedom of Information Act.

There is also photographic evidence suggesting Dr Kelly’s body was moved after it was found.

Last year it emerged that in 2004 all medical and scientific reports relating to his death – including photographs of his body – were secretly classified for 70 years.
Much of the material affected by this highly unusual gagging order has still not been released and no legal explanation for it has ever been made.

Mr Halpin added: ‘Coroners, not politicians, should determine how, where and when someone has died. That is our law in our country. There is an element of David and Goliath here.’

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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Hunt for Tony Blair

Comic Strip returns with Tony Blair on the run in Channel 4 film noir comedy

The Hunt for Tony Blair premieres in Edinburgh, with Stephen Mangan as Blair and Jennifer Saunders as Lady Thatcher

John Plunkett, Friday 26 August 2011 19.40 BST

They were the comedy writers who re-imagined the 1984 miners' strike as an action movie, with Arthur Scargill played by an Al Pacino lookalike. Then there was their take on the Greater London Council, with Ken Livingstone portrayed by a fictional Charles Bronson.

Now the team behind Channel 4's Comic Strip have turned their fire on Tony Blair and Lady Thatcher in a comedy timed to coincide with the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

The Hunt for Tony Blair, which received its world premiere in Edinburgh on Friday, has Stephen Mangan playing the former prime minister in the 1950s-style film noir pastiche. He is a fugitive responsible for a string of killings including the former foreign secretary Robin Cook. And he is implicated in the death of John Smith.

Mangan, who starred in Channel 4's Green Wing and played Dirk Gently in a recent BBC adaptation of the Douglas Adams detective novel, appears in an all-star cast including Jennifer Saunders as Lady Thatcher, Harry Enfield as Alastair Campbell and Robbie Coltrane as the detective on Blair's trail.

Blair takes refuge with Thatcher – played as a cross between Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis – whom he discovers at home watching old newsreels of the Falklands war. The pair are shown sharing a post-coital cigarette. "I'm so in love with you," she tells Blair. "I won my war. You didn't."

Director Peter Richardson, who co-wrote the comedy with Pete Richens, said Mangan's take on Blair bore comparison with Michael Sheen's award-winning take on the former Labour leader in The Deal. "I hope people will forget Michael Sheen after this. He's done a fantastic job," said Richardson.

On the run from the police, Blair tells his wife Cherie: "It's no big deal. I've been charged with murder," and in his desperation turns to his friends for help. But Melvyn Bragg refuses to take his call and Bernie Ecclestone is no help either.

"You couldn't lend me a really fast car, could you?" Blair asks the Formula 1 impresario. "Preferably one without 'Durex' written on the side."

But if Mangan does an admirable take on Blair, then Nigel Planer steals every scene he appears in as an uncannily accurate Lord Mandelson. Asked by police where Blair might be hiding, Mandelson replies: "Tuscany or Florida or Barbados with Cliff Richard."

Alastair Campbell is played by Enfield in a cameo role, in a memorable, expletive-strewn performance. Ford Kiernan has Gordon Brown saying: "Don't call me a psycho. I'll rip your face off!"

Richardson said he had been sensitive to the portrayal of real people in the film, including Smith and Cook, who is pushed off the top of a hill by Blair.

"Yes I do worry about Robin Cook and John Smith. There's no suggestion he actually did murder these people; it's ridiculous and not true," he told the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Festival.

"We couldn't do anything about David Kelly, for instance, because it was too real and too serious.

"We deliberately didn't go down that road. Robin Cook was the champion of his cause, he stood up to Blair and we have shown that," said Richardson.

Richardson said he had read Blair's autobiography, A Journey, and lifted some lines wholesale for the screenplay. "There are a few lines in the book which suddenly seemed to fit the film very well. He always mentions his book as much as possible."

He said he "didn't think a great deal" of the former prime minister, and thought viewers would "like to see Tony Blair chased".