Lord Hutton’s Report


The CV of Lord Hutton, who has died, can be summed up in two parts: his role in Northern Ireland, and his impact on the BBC. The Irish lawyer has appointed to the judicial bench in 1979, and became the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in 1988. Despite being a rather dour Presbyterian, he had a reputation for calling it for either side of the divide based on how he saw the case, hence defending the soldiers during Bloody Sunday, and members of Sinn Fein in the 80s. He rejected soldier Lee Clegg’s appeal against murder convictions, and spoke out in favour when Patrick Nash’s conviction, gained by apparent torture, was overturned.

In these, he was seen as a man of his own mind, and first choice for the independent report in 2003 into the death of Dr David Kelly. Kelly was a weapons expert who spoke off the record to the BBC about the legality of the Iraq War, was outed as a source in parliament, and soon after died, most likely of suicide. However, the conspiracy theories exist. The Hutton Report was widely expected to be fair and conclusive on the matter, but another aspect of his character that was perhaps understated was his unwillingness to make precedents against the status quo.

The Report instead entirely defended the government of any wrong doing in “sexing up” the reports on Iraq weaponry, and instead destroyed the BBC over their reporting of the government Iraq links. As ITN’s Chief Executive Stewart Purvis put it, the Report “gave the benefit of the doubt to the entire government and none at all to the BBC”. This is how Tony Blair took the country to war on false information and the Director General of the BBC had to resign as a result. The complete whitewash, as it became known, did little to stem growing public disdain in the Blair government, and perhaps painted his reputation for distrust. The Report continues to damage the BBC to this day, like a killer torpedo strike. Lord Hutton remained unrepentant, claiming taking time to look at all the evidence would be “playing to the gallery”, and viewed it as another day in the life of a man who could prosecute Bernadette Devlin or defend murderers, depending on which suited the establishment status quo best.

He also blocked the extradition of Pinochet in the 1990s as one of the original Judges had links to Amnesty International, and his last politics actions including voting against equal rites in Northern Ireland.

He was unique pick for Apricot Crumble, one of Gooseberry’s trio of teams. 

Lord Hutton
29 June 1932 – 14 July 2020