Richard Ingrams: There are some official decisions that defy belief


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The career of Dr Freddy Patel could well inspire a satirical sitcom about a pathologist – the Inspector Clouseau of his profession.

Incidents in a long professional history include his assertion in 2005 that a prostitute had died of natural causes when later a man admitted to her murder and disciplinary action taken against him by the General Medical Council in 1999 over the involvement in the case of Roger Sylvester who died in police custody.

So how was it that this unlucky practitioner was chosen to investigate the death of Ian Tomlinson at last year's anti-G20 demonstration in London? Could the authorities have been ignorant of Dr Patel's record, which includes four post-mortems currently being investigated by the GMC?

Equally mystifying is the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute the police officer seen by millions on TV hitting Mr Tomlinson on the grounds that there was a conflict of evidence between Dr Patel's diagnosis of coronary artery disease and that of two other less controversial pathologists – abdominal haemorrhage. Isn't that the sort of issue that a jury would normally be asked to resolve?

There may well be innocent explanations for both these apparent mysteries, but coming so soon after the de Menezes scandal the public could be forgiven for thinking that this might be another cover-up by the authorities to protect the police. But who will make a fuss? Where are the MPs to take up the cudgels and demand answers from the responsible ministers?

Paper's days are not quite numbered

Any old-fashioned citizen struggling to understand the WikiLeaks story must be puzzled by the use of the word documents to describe the massive quantity of secret military reports from Afghanistan that have been posted on the internet by the mysterious Mr Assange.

The idea that there are still documents – ie pieces of paper – being passed about by US government departments seems most unlikely in this age when almost everything is computerised. If there are such things as genuine documents still to be found about the place, it could be a sign that officialdom has realised that it's rather easier to ensure confidentiality by putting it all on paper and keeping it in a locked filing cabinet.

As it happens, the document question arises in the case of Mr Carne Ross, one of two Foreign Office officials to resign over the Iraq war. Mr Ross told the Chilcot inquiry last week that when he asked the Foreign Office for some relevant documents about Iraq, he was told that some of the key ones had gone missing. This suggests that the Foreign Office may still be using pieces of paper for their records. They have concluded not only that it is easier to keep them secret, it's easier to ensure that they go missing if the circumstances demand it.

No thanks – it's way past my bedtime

There are continued rumblings about the cost of the Pope's state visit to Britain next month. But the Pope himself seems to be doing his bit to keep the costs down. If a recent report in the Daily Mail is to be believed, His Holiness has declined the offer of a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on the grounds that he likes to go to bed at 8.30pm.

Another report, this time in the Catholic magazine The Tablet, confirms the story about the state banquet but suggests a different reason for the papal refusal, namely that all popes make it a rule never to be seen eating in public – this presumably on the grounds that it makes them look undignified. (On similar grounds Hitler made it a rule that politicians should never be photographed in a bathing costume.)

Of course it is possible that etiquette dictates that, regardless of the Pope's sleeping and eating habits, the state banquet has to go ahead, presumably with an empty chair at the head of the table. If that is so, the Pope could well be disappointed if, as one thinks, he is concerned about unnecessary expense. In the meantime, some of us ought to think seriously of adopting his 8.30pm bedtime routine – if only as a useful means of getting out of boring dinner party invitations.

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