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On The Scene

Hutton: Surprises to the end

By CNN's Graham Jones

Hutton: 104-minute summary of 740 pages of adjudication
Hutton: 104-minute summary of 740 pages of adjudication

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• On the scene: Surprises to the end 
• Hutton statement: Key quotes 
• Timeline: The Kelly affair 

• Full text: Lord Hutton's report external link
Are you satisfied with the findings of the Hutton report?

Kelly took his own life

No one should have known Kelly would take his life

BBC report that government dossier was "sexed-up" was unfounded

BBC's editorial system was defective in allowing report to air without approval

Government did not behave dishonorably concerning Kelly's identity

LONDON, England (CNN) -- It was the inquiry that held Britain spellbound as, set against the background of the Iraq war, it revealed the secret inner workings of government right up to the prime minister himself.

And Lord Hutton's report into events surrounding the death of British weapons inspector David Kelly sprung new surprises even at the last gasp.

To a hushed audience of 17 lawyers, 20 government observers, 90-odd journalists, countless ushers, two security men and just 11 members of the public who had started queuing at 6:00 a.m., Hutton rattled in a low, somber voice through 740 pages of penetrating adjudication.

If the absoluteness of the exoneration of PM Tony Blair in the affair was more clear than had been imagined, there was some surprise in Court 76 at London's Royal Courts of Justice that some of the government names called to give evidence escaped with no stain on their character.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon had been billed as likely to be heavily criticized for the way Kelly's named became public -- even forced to resign as a result. Hutton mentioned him twice and said he had accepted his evidence.

Former government communications chief Alastair Campbell -- who has already left his post at Blair's side -- escaped censure.

Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett, in charge of the UK government dossier with its now notorious "45 minute claim" of readiness of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, was portrayed as having acted properly throughout.

If Scarlett had acted too enthusiastically, Hutton opined, he probably had been affected subconsciously by a government wish to make the wording of the dossier stronger.

By now the 200 or so in the large, modern 3rd-floor courtroom surrounded incongruously by empty bookcases were rather hard to surprise. The script followed almost exactly a leak of the report in the morning's Sun tabloid, something Hutton deplored at the end of the hearing.

The one part of Hutton's statement that brought audible gasps from the journalists in court was when he explained how he had changed his mind on whether the government had set upon a "dishonorable, underhand or duplicitous" strategy to leak Kelly's name to the press.

Hutton's questions during the hearings had revealed that he had been pursuing that line. But faced with evidence from government officials -- including Blair and Hoon -- he had come to the conclusion they were merely trying to guard against accusations of a cover-up, he said.

Kelly had believed his name would come out in the press anyway, Hutton said, and the scientist's widow had given evidence to that effect.

The defense ministry press office might have done more to advise him his name was coming out, Hutton said -- but he was not an easy man to help or advise.

Reporter Andrew Gilligan arrives at the BBC headquarters Wednesday.
Reporter Andrew Gilligan arrives at the BBC headquarters Wednesday.

By contrast Hutton's condemnation of the BBC -- and in particular the journalist whose report sparked the row, Andrew Gilligan -- was withering.

A number of BBC journalists unconnected with the affair were in court -- among them presenters Nicholas Witchell and Jeremy Paxman -- and they heard serious criticism of their board of governors, management and "defective" journalistic complaints procedures.

"Unfounded" was the word Hutton kept using when talking of Gilligan's original report accusing the government of using "sexed up" intelligence on Iraqi WMDs knowing it to be false. "A very grave allegation," Hutton said.

He clearly found it disturbing that BBC managers "failed" to check Gilligan's twice-written, non-contemporaneous notes of his meeting with Kelly. If they had done so they would have realized the report was wrong, Hutton said.

After 100 minutes of delivery, Hutton had moved to his conclusion that Kelly had taken his own life because he felt publicly disgraced -- and that no one else was involved. Earlier he had stressed the fact that Kelly, although he did not realize the gravity of the situation, did have an unauthorized meeting with Gilligan.

There was a brief intermission when one of the 11 members of the public rose to give the opinion that Kelly's death was murder.

Patricia Rodrigues-Walsh, who describes herself as a criminal psychologist from London, is a veteran of the Harold Shipman ("Dr Death") inquiry hearings and confided her opinion that he was murdered, too.

Hutton told her politely and firmly time was short, it was time to move on.

After the Hutton report the Blair government will be in agreement that it is time to do just that.

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