Saturday, September 03, 2011

Legal battle for inquest to begin

Fight for inquest on David Kelly is going to court after doctor launches legal challenge

By Miles Goslett

Last updated at 12:40 AM on 3rd September 2011

The Government faces a legal challenge next week over its decision not to hold a coroner's inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve ruled one out in June after conducting an investigation that concluded there was 'overwhelming evidence' the Whitehall weapons inspector committed suicide.

Now a doctor who is suspicious of the official account of Dr Kelly's death has started proceedings for a judicial review of Mr Grieve's decision.

After an appeal just a week ago, hundreds of Daily Mail readers have contributed £33,000 to a fund set up to help secure an inquest.

Using this money to cover legal fees, papers will be lodged at the High Court by Thursday – the deadline for launching a judicial review.

Dr David Halpin, who has been co-ordinating a group of doctors fighting for an inquest since December 2003, will be the claimant in the action.

Documents for the judicial review are being prepared by barrister John Cooper QC and solicitor Jennifer McDermott.

It is understood the judicial review is likely to focus on the actions of at least one senior member of Tony Blair's government involved in the initial decision not to have a full inquest into Dr Kelly's death.

Abnormalities that will be emphasised include the fact that no witness has ever spoken under oath about the death, and many documents that have been withheld from the public will be sought.

An argument will also be made that Mr Grieve exceeded his powers as Attorney General by conducting his own investigation into the affair.

Dr Kelly allegedly killed himself after being named as the prime source of a BBC report accusing Mr Blair's government of lying to take Britain into the Iraq war.

His body was found in woods near his Oxfordshire home on July 18, 2003.

Days later, an inquest into his death began as a matter of routine, but was swiftly closed down and replaced by a non-statutory public inquiry led by Lord Hutton.

He found Dr Kelly killed himself after slashing his wrist with a pruning knife and overdosing on painkillers.

However, Dr Halpin says he finds it 'highly improbable' that Dr Kelly bled to death and disputes medical evidence about the concentration of drugs in his body.

Before deciding against an inquest, Mr Grieve was presented with fresh evidence by the doctors highlighting irregularities.

These included the fact that there were no fingerprints on items found with Dr Kelly's body, including the knife he allegedly used to kill himself and two packs of pills he supposedly swallowed.

Last year it emerged that in 2004 all medical and scientific reports relating to his death were secretly classified for 70 years. No legal explanation for this has ever been made.

Dr Halpin and his fellow campaigners hope the judicial review will eventually lead to a full inquest.


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