Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hoon's a Liar, Says Kelly's Lawyer

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hoon's a Liar, Says Kelly's Lawyer

Article excerpt

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was yesterday labelled a liar and a hypocrite by the lawyer for the family of David Kelly.

Jeremy Gompertz QC, in his closing submission to the Hutton Inquiry, launched a blistering attack on the Ministry of Defence and accused the Government of treating the weapons expert 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 an enthusiastic supporter of naming Dr Kelly as the BBC's source and charged him with a "cynical abuse of power" in the MoD's treatment of him in the days leading to his death.

However counsel for the Government, Jonathan Sumption QC, said Dr Kelly had had no right to anonymity.

And counsel for the BBC, Andrew Caldecott QC, acknowledged mistakes in its reporting but accused Mr Hoon of cynical indifference in his failure to correct Press reporting about the dossier.

Mr Gompertz said Mr Hoon'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 No 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell's diary. "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.

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

Mr Gompertz dismissed as "risible" a claim by MoD personnel director Richard Hatfield that the scientist had been given "outstanding" support.

After Dr Kelly's name was made public 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 the world-renowned expert in biological weapons - a broken man.

"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."

Mr Sumption said: "The Government had no obligation to keep Dr Kelly's name secret and Dr Kelly had no right to expect them to do so."

He attacked the BBC for its refusal to correct its reporting and its failure to realise the gravity of the charges it was levelling.

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

Mr Caldecott attacked the Government's "wholly indefensible" failure to correct Press reports suggesting the 45-minute point in the dossier referred to ballistic missiles when ministers knew it was about battlefield weapons. …

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