Fresh legal bid to force inquest into Kelly's death

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The Independent Online

A fresh legal bid to force an inquest into the death of Government scientist David Kelly is to be launched within the next few days, it was disclosed today.

Formal legal papers are expected to be submitted to Attorney General Dominic Grieve by the end of the coming week, requesting his authorisation for a group of doctors to go to the High Court and seek an inquest.

If he refuses to grant the authorisation - known in legal language as a fiat - his decision could be subject to appeal at the High Court.

The five eminent doctors have conducted a long-running campaign to overturn the highly unusual decision not to hold an inquest into Dr Kelly's death in 2003, shortly after he was named as the source of reports challenging the Government's dossier of evidence on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer ruled that Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death - which found that Kelly committed suicide - would take the place of a standard coroner's inquest.

The new legal move was prompted by an interview given last month by pathologist Nicholas Hunt, who carried out an autopsy on Dr Kelly's body.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Dr Hunt stated that he found "big clots" of blood in the sleeve of Kelly's jacket and soaked into the ground and regarded the case as a "textbook" suicide - details which were not presented in evidence to the Hutton Inquiry.

Barrister Michael Powers QC, who is acting for the group of doctors, said that Dr Hunt's comments gave weight to their argument that Hutton's inquiry did not represent a sufficient examination of the cause of Dr Kelly's death.

Mr Powers told the Press Association: "The media has now presented evidence which we have never had before. The fact that he felt it necessary to go to the press and say these things proves to us that the inquiry was insufficient."

The details which Dr Hunt mentioned must have come from the medical report into Dr Kelly's death, which Lord Hutton controversially ruled should remain secret for 70 years, said Mr Powers.

The group of doctors are awaiting a decision from Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke over whether this ruling should be overturned to allow them to see the report.

The application for a fiat is being prepared by the doctors' legal representatives and is expected to be handed over to Mr Grieve by the end of the week.

He then has a period to decide whether to give the go-ahead for a High Court hearing, which would not be expected to take place for some weeks.

Mr Powers said the documents being presented to Mr Grieve would "request and require" the Government's most senior law officer to issue a fiat allowing the doctors to go the High Court with his authority to bring their demand for an inquest to its attention.

Doctors have questioned whether the cuts to the ulnar artery described to the Hutton Inquiry would have been enough - along with the consumption of a number of painkillers - to kill Dr Kelly.

They insist an inquest is needed to clear up once and for all any doubt over whether he was the victim of foul play.

But Dr Hunt told The Sunday Times he was in no doubt: "It was an absolute classic case of self-inflicted injury. You could illustrate a textbook with it.

"If it were anyone else and you were to suggest there's something foul about it, you would be referred for additional training. I would welcome an inquest, I've nothing to hide."

Mr Grieve has called in papers relating to Kelly's death and is considering whether he should himself order an inquest.

But Mr Powers said that granting the doctors a fiat would allow the Attorney General to provide an opportunity for the issues to be aired in the High Court without the Government having to take the initiative on what is inevitably a highly politically-charged subject.

"We can't wait indefinitely for the Government to make a decision," said Mr Powers. "Hence the decision to lay formal papers."

The current situation has left people concerned about Dr Kelly's death in a "guessing game", he said.

"The doctors' argument is that there has been insufficient inquiry into the death," he said.

"It has been insufficient because so many people without axes to grind but wanting to see the system of justice operate recognise that it has not provided answers to perfectly proper questions which were never asked, challenged or cross-examined at the Hutton Inquiry."