Paul Waugh: The caped crusader shows true colours

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The Independent Online

It has taken 19 days and seemingly endless provocation, but yesterday James Dingemans, counsel to the Hutton inquiry, finally got angry. And I mean angry.

The handsome QC, the epitome of courtroom courteousness, has put up with evasive evidence and incomplete answers from a string of witnesses.

He suddenly turned from a mild-mannered Bruce Wayne into Batman, duffing up foes with a superhuman strength. With Peter Knox, his junior counsel, transforming into Robin to defend David Kelly's honour, and Lord Hutton bearing a striking resemblance to Alfred, the elderly butler who knows more than his juniors put together, the line-up was complete: Kelly's superheroes.

Batman's patience snapped when confronted with testimony from The Joker, aka Richard Hatfield, the MoD's personnel director, about the Government's failure to warn Dr Kelly his name would be made public.

He had been kind of, sort of warned that his name would "come out" at some stage, Mr Hatfield said, the Joker's snigger a smidgen away.

An exasperated Mr Dingemans asked: "There is a world of difference, is there not, between the name coming out and your employer saying we will confirm the name?" Then, KAPOW! "Before your employer confirms the name, do you not think it is at least FAIR to tell him you are going to do that?" "Er ..." BIFF! "You are the person speaking to him about the press statement, you are the person speaking to him about what's going to come with it. What is wrong with telling him: we will confirm the name if it is given?" OOF! The Joker gave in. "Had I known we were going to have this inquiry focusing on that point, I would of course done so explicitly," Mr Hatfield said.

Next up was Pam Teare, the MoD's director of news, or for the purposes of this sketch, The Riddler. This time it was Mr Knox who knocked his opponent around the courtroom as she came up with ever more ludicrous evasions to his questions.

No comic strip would be incomplete without its jargon, and the evidence of Andrew Gilligan, aka The Penguin, provided lots of geekspeak. Amid talk of hexidecimal formats, there was an electrifying moment when it seemed that Mr Gilligan had doctored his personal computer organiser. Had he inserted the word "Campbell" well after his meeting with Dr Kelly? Mr Dingemans asked.

Amazingly, the Penguin wriggled out of it, coming up with a plausible-ish explanation. Perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised. Every superhero story needs the villain to reappear miraculously to fight another day ...