Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Dominic Grieve should resign (II)

In December last year I raised an Epetition calling for the resignation of Dominic Grieve because he took it upon himself to investigate the death of Dr David Kelly, the arms inspector who brought attention to the 'dodgy dossier' which took us into an illegal war with Iraq. There was never a proper inquest into Dr Kelly’s death. In fact Dominic Grieve, at the behest of Michael Howard, had himself backed an inquest into Dr Kelly’s death in 2010 providing sufficient evidence warranted such an inquest. But instead he looked into the death himself and concluded that on the ‘evidence’ he had seen there was nothing which led him to believe anything but the Hutton Inquiry’s conclusion that Dr Kelly took his own life.

To begin with the Hutton Inquiry, or any other inquiry, has no legal authority to establish the death of any person dying from unnatural causes. That is the role of a coroner. The Hutton Inquiry was further hampered by the fact that witnesses were not sworn in, and were only marginally cross-examined – if at all. Likewise the Attorney General’s legal background relates to occupational and safety law, and in fact he is rather a career politician than a lawyer. Coroners have profession-specific training and qualifications which it is unlikely either Dominic Grieve or Lord Hutton possess, leaving neither of them in a position to replace a coroner, but which both of them appear to have done. 

·         Coroners have to be available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
·         Coroners need to have medical-training and very often possess forensic knowledge.
·         Coroners need to keep up to date with changes in Coronial Law – a discipline on its own.

The Attorney General is advisor to the government and the highest legal authority in England and Wales. The last three Attorney Generals, Peter Goldsmith, Patricia Scotland and the current one, Dominic Grieve, have each exceeded their authority. In an email to the Attorney General’s office on 18 May 2011, Christopher Stephen Frost, a specialist in diagnostic radiology, sought reassurance that due process would take place in establishing an inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. As I've mentioned before, in his email he pointed out that due process had not ensued with both Grieve’s predecessors, “Lord Goldsmith over his twice changed Iraq War legal advice and Baroness Scotland over the twice cancelled Serious Fraud Office investigation of British Aerospace”.

On 19 December 2011 Justice Nicol attempted to bring to an end any chance of an inquest into the death of Dr Kelly, which is alarming since there never was a proper inquest. Instead the findings of the Hutton Inquiry, which dealt with this unnatural event clumsily, was allowed to stand. To add to the lack of justice from what was more correctly labelled “a whitewash” Hutton prohibited papers and photographs related to Kelly’s death from public scrutiny for 70 years, a decision subsequently upheld by Dominic Grieve, and Justice Nicol. Some details of the police investigation and post mortem reports have been released but the all-important photographs, which, in conjunction with an inquest would help establish the truth, are still being withheld.

By not releasing photographs of Dr Kelly’s body and the position where it lay does nothing to allay suspicions that the body was moved at some time between being found and the arrival of the paramedics. There are conflicting reports as to where the body lay when it was discovered and a short time afterwards. Paramedics, David Bartlett and Vanessa Hunt, on their arrival at the police-scene, applied electrodes to the body while the police took photographs. The body at this time was lying flat on the ground far enough away from the tree for a person to walk between the tree and body. The paramedics pronounced Dr Kelly dead at 10.07 a.m. Earlier Ms Holmes and Paul Chapman, who were searching the area found Dr Kelly slumped back against the tree, where the police-dog-team also mentioned they had seen the body. These discrepancies were ignored by the Hutton Inquiry. No coroner in the land would have ignored such a conflict of evidence without cross-examining the witnesses.

A group of dedicated medical experts, who have long questioned Hutton’s finding of suicide in Dr Kelly’s death continue to call for an inquest. Their latest request, made a few days ago, raises the issue about the moving of the body. A proper inquest, when it is granted, will almost certainly establish that the body was moved. Who moved it? When? Why? Those are likely to be the more important additional questions.

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