Hutton warns media not to speculate on witnesses

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Indy Politics

Lord Hutton ended the first phase of his inquiry yesterday with a warning to the press not to draw conclusions from witnesses he recalls for detailed cross-examination.

In a brief lunchtime statement after four weeks of evidence, Lord Hutton said the hearings had been designed to obtain a "full and detailed account" of the factors affecting Dr David Kelly before his death and the investigation after he was found. The judge said he might also call fresh witnesses.

Lord Hutton said he was adjourning sittings until 15 Septemberto enable him "to consider what parts of the evidence already given and what issues arising from it should be made subject to more detailed and rigorous scrutiny".

But the law lord issued a sharp warning to the media that any speculation on his conclusions would be "ill-founded" and warned that the decision to recall or not recall any of the figures in the inquiry did not imply they had been selected out for criticism. He insisted some witnesses could be recalled simply to clarify matters.

During the second stage of the inquiry, witnesses will be subject to cross-examination by their own lawyers and lawyers for other interested parties, although Lord Hutton has already made clear that questions will be limited to those "helpful to the inquiry".

He said yesterday: "When it becomes known whom I intend to call in the second stage of the inquiry, speculation as to whether certain persons may or not be subject to criticism may well be ill-founded.

"The fact that I recall a witness to give further evidence in the second stage of the inquiry does not necessarily mean that I regard that person as a possible object of criticism.

"The fact that I do not recall a witness does not necessarily mean that he or she may not be subject to criticism in my report. It is possible that they might not be recalled because I have notified that person privately in writing that I may criticise him or her in my report."