Last Monday it emerged that the Saville inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings would carry on for at least another year. By the time it ends, supposing it ever does, Saville’s shambles will have taken nearly a decade, cost more than £200 million, and some of those most intimately involved will surely have died.
Over Christmas and the New Year, Lord Hutton is said to have been at his home in Northern Ireland, not that far from Saville’s Londonderry base, drafting the final passages of his investigation into the death of the brave, public-spirited government scientist Dr David Kelly CMG. It will have taken six months, start to finish. Maybe Lord Hutton wanted to be as far away as possible from the fetid world of Westminster and Fleet Street, to write his conclusions. Everything about this fastidious, scrupulous, old-fashioned high-court judge is a reproach to our wretched world of spin doctors, sloppy journalists, toadying officials and lying politicians, with which he has been brought into such sharp contact since last July’s tragedy.
Lord Hutton has taken every step possible to maintain his detachment from the political and media process, in which he has temporarily become by far the most important player. Just before Christmas, at the age of 72, he announced his retirement. This move emphasised the fact that there is nothing in it for him, whichever way his judgment finally falls. It is expected that he will make a statement from the Law Courts, again stressing his physical and moral distance from Westminster, when his document is published. Government ministers will apparently be given the report just 24 hours in advance, allowing them minimum time to spin, leak, sex up or tamper in any way with his findings. Good legal sources say that Lord Hutton’s work was more or less finished by mid-December, but that he preferred to bring it to a conclusion after the New Year.