Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Death of David Kelly - A Hutton judgement thrown out on appeal 18 years after the event

In 1991 Sir Brian Hutton, then Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, was the judge for the trial in Northern Ireland of Danny Morrison and others. He sat alone, without a jury, in a Diplock court.

In 2009 the convictions reached by Hutton were thrown out by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

The reasons why the convictions were overturned remain a state secret. The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal judges decided that the reasons be withheld on grounds of "national security".

The judgement of the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal is here: THE QUEEN v DANIEL MORRISON and OTHERS.

Danny Morrison's account of the Court of Appeal opting for secrecy is here: Evidence Was Hidden, says Court.

A much more detailed account of events is here: Dirty Fighting. The account includes suggestions that Special Branch were complicit in covering up an attempted murder.

It seems to me that there is a significant likelihood that Hutton got it wrong in 1991. But, for reasons of "national security", we aren't being told exactly what went wrong.

The degree to which Brian Hutton was culpable in 1991 remains concealed. Given the many doubts about Hutton's approach to conducting the inquiry into David Kelly's death that is particularly unfortunate.

The need for the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to acquiesce with concealing relevant documentation is, perhaps, a worrying precedent for those who seek the truth about the death of Dr. David Kelly. But time will tell.

In Northern Ireland's Diplock courts a single judge sat without a jury.

Those courts were set up, some believe, in response to statements such as this attributed to Brigadier Frank Kitson:

the Law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible

So, according to Kitson, the courts in Northern Ireland were to be "little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public".

Brian Hutton presided over Diplock Courts: from 1979 to 1988 as a High Court Judge and from 1988 to 1997 as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland.

Danny Morrison, as readers of this post will appreciate, has good reason to have a negative view of Lord Hutton. However, his assessment of Hutton as "the guardian angel of soldiers and police officers" (see My report on Lord Hutton) may have particular relevance to the death of Dr. David Kelly and its subsequent investigation.

Danny Morrison's opinion of Brian Hutton is based on experience and, I suggest, is well worth a careful read. The sections where Lord Denning and John Major receive mention are particularly interesting.

If the Attorney General seeks an order from the High Court for an inquest to be held into the death of Dr. David Kelly, I wonder what the report of the British public on Lord Hutton may be.


  1. The penitent peer should now works in a West London soup kitchen


  2. A very interesting post and links Andrew. A fascinating read!

  3. Where are the TV programmes today like the Cook Report, or the early Channel 4 documentaries which would have investigated the events of summer 2003? Don't look here.