Kelly QC: Hoon is a liar and hypocrite

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Indy Politics

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was today labelled a liar and a hypocrite by the lawyer for the family of David Kelly as he launched a blistering attack on the Ministry of Defence.

In his closing submission to the Hutton Inquiry, Jeremy Gompertz QC accused the Government of treating Dr Kelly as a "pawn" in its bitter battle with the BBC over the alleged "sexing up" of the Iraq weapons dossier.

He said Mr Hoon had been guilty of a "cynical abuse of power" in the MoD's treatment of the weapons expert in the days leading up to his death.

And the Defence Secretary's denials that he had been involved in a strategy to publicly name Dr Kelly as the BBC's source had been exposed as "hypocrisy" by entries in the diary of No 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell.

"They indicate with clarity, if accepted by the inquiry, that the Secretary of State's denials of the Government's strategy, put to him in cross-examination, were false," Mr Gompertz said.

"Indeed they reveal he was an enthusiastic supporter of the proposal to put Dr Kelly's name into the public domain.

"This is totally contrary to his previous stance.

"If, as the family submit, there was a strategy to out Dr Kelly, to use a witness to undermine Andrew Gilligan in furtherance of the Government's dispute with the BBC, this was a cynical abuse of power and deserves the strongest possible condemnation."

The Hutton Inquiry is investigating how Dr Kelly came to take his own life after being publicly identified as the source of the BBC's report on the Iraq weapons dossier by journalist Andrew Gilligan.

Mr Gompertz said it was not the aim of the family to seek "revenge or individual scapegoats" for Dr Kelly's treatment.

But he said they wanted to expose the "duplicity" of the Government and the "systematic failures" of the MoD in their handling of Dr Kelly after he came forward to say that he had spoken to Mr Gilligan.

He contrasted the Government's unwillingness during the inquiry to accept criticism with the willingness of the BBC to admit mistakes in its broadcasts.

He said Dr Kelly's widow Janice and their two daughters had been "deeply hurt and angered" by the evidence to the inquiry of MoD personnel director Richard Hatfield.

He dismissed as "risible" Mr Hatfield's claim that the scientist had been given "outstanding" support and accused him of trying to portray Dr Kelly as the "author of his own misfortune".

He said the MoD had not even had the "common decency" to inform Dr Kelly of its plan to confirm his identity to journalists who came up with the right name or offered counselling on how to deal with the pressures of the media spotlight.

After Dr Kelly's name was made public, the MoD had not sought to ask his wife how he was coping with the strain and his one request - to be accompanied by a friend when he gave evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee - was turned down.

He said the effect had been to leave Dr Kelly - a world renowned expert in the field of biological weapons - a broken man.

"He had worked faithfully for the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office all his life," he said.

"He served his country loyally and with distinction and yet all the while he remained a modest, retiring man who never sought the limelight.

"The Government and the nation have lost their greatest expert in biological weapons of mass destruction, yet he was characterised by his employers to suit their needs as a middle-ranking official and used as a pawn in their political battle with the BBC.

"The public exposure must have brought about a total loss of self-esteem, the feeling that people had lost trust in him.

"No wonder Dr Kelly felt betrayed after giving his life to the service of his country. No wonder he was broken-hearted and, as his wife put it, had shrunk into himself."

In his closing submission, counsel for the Government Jonathan Sumption QC strongly defended the weapons dossier as the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee and its chairman John Scarlett.

He said the BBC's allegation that the controversial "45 minute" claim had been inserted against the wishes of the intelligence agencies had been shown to be without foundation.

Throughout the bitter row the corporation had refused to accept the Government's denials or the gravity of the allegations they were making.

"The BBC seem to have regarded this as a routine piece of political mudslinging, chatter in the air," he said.

"It seems to have thought that the BBC could shoot off its fireworks and then steal away. The caravan would move on and nobody would pay any more attention."

But the Government could not ignore such serious accusations.

"It was simply not possible for a democratic government to dismiss a charge like this as part of the ordinary political debate."