Hutton breaks silence to deny claims of whitewash

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Indy Politics

After almost three years of silence, Lord Hutton has finally made his first public comments on his report into the death of the weapons expert David Kelly.

Defending himself against criticism of the report, which was dubbed a "whitewash", Lord Hutton said he would have failed in his duty as a judge if he had found the Government guilty of wrongdoing.

The report, published in January 2004, cleared the Government of publishing information about weapons of mass destruction that it knew to be false. It also said there was no dishonourable conduct towards Dr Kelly.

The weapons expert killed himself days after being identified as the source of a story by Andrew Gilligan - then defence correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today Programme - that said the Government had "sexed up" the dossier giving reasons for the country to go to war in Iraq.

In a 25-page article written for the journal Public Law, Lord Hutton acknowledged the anticipation surrounding the publication of the report, and said that "many commentators were hoping and predicting my report would severely damage the Government".

He said: "If I had delivered a report highly critical of the Government in terms that conformed to the hopes of some commentators I have no doubt that it would have received much praise.

"However, in reality, if I had written such a report I would have been failing in one of the cardinal duties of a judge conducting an inquiry into a highly controversial matter which gives rise to intense public interest."

Lord Hutton found that the Ministry of Defence was at fault for not offering more help to Dr Kelly.

But after hearing evidence from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair and Sir Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, he concluded that the government was not at fault. He also questioned Tom Kelly, the Prime Minister's spokes-man, who had allegedly described Dr Kelly as a "Walter Mitty" figure.

But Lord Hutton remained adamant that his report was not a whitewash. He said: "If all the evidence at my inquiry was fairly taken into account, there was no reasonable basis on which my conclusion that the Government did not know that the 45 minutes claim was wrong and had not ordered the dossier to be sexed up could be described as a whitewash."

He continued: "There was no evidence which would support a finding that the very senior figures in British intelligence who gave evidence to the inquiry had taken part in a conspiracy with the Government to mislead the country by inserting intelligence in the dossier which was known or believed to be wrong."

He also said: "What was apparent in the criticisms of my report was not only their failure to take my terms of reference into proper account but their failure to take into account and properly evaluate all the evidence."

Mr Hutton added that some commentators appeared "to adopt an attitude of predetermined bias against certain witnesses".

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