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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 September, 2003, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
MoD officials defend Kelly treatment
Pam Teare
Teare: Press office has no welfare role
Two senior Ministry of Defence officials have defended the way Dr David Kelly was treated amid tough questioning from the dead scientist's family's lawyer.

In tense exchanges at the Hutton inquiry into Dr Kelly's death, MoD personnel director Richard Hatfield rejected claims that Dr David Kelly was misled about the way his government bosses were treating him.

The weapons expert's apparent suicide came after he was named as the suspected source for Mr Gilligan's story about the government "sexing up" intelligence in its Iraq weapons dossier.

Mr Hatfield said he had not appeared to be suffering more stress than usually expected from people facing questions from MPs and pressure from "modern media behaviour".

He also denied the scientist had not expected to be named as the source.

Too little notice?

Dr Kelly's name became public just over 24 hours after the MoD put out a press release saying an unnamed official had admitted meeting Mr Gilligan.

To go alongside the release, press officers were told in a "question and answer" sheet to confirm Dr Kelly's name if it was put to them by journalists.

Kelly family barrister Jeremy Gompertz QC asked MoD director of news Pam Teare why it had taken two hours for the MoD to tell Dr Kelly his name had been confirmed.
THURSDAY'S WITNESSES
MoD personnel director Richard Hatfield
MoD director of news Pam Teare
Edward Wilding, director, Data Genetics Ltd
Professor A J Sammes, Centre for Forensic Computing, Cranfield University
BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan

The MoD official, who said the press office had no welfare role itself, said the scientist had already been warned to consider staying with friends because of the amount of media interest in the story.

Asked about differences between different drafts of the Q&A sheet, she said they were trying to find the "fairest" way of dealing with a difficult situation where names were bandied around.

She said the third draft had dropped a sentence about telling Dr Kelly before he was named because she had learnt the scientist had been warned his name was likely to become public.

Ms Teare did not accept the confirmation strategy had produced a "guessing game" - that was something of journalists' own making.

Top MoD civil servant Sir Kevin Tebbit had authorised the Q&A, she added.

Support defence

Dr Kelly's widow Janice has said her husband felt totally let down and betrayed by the MoD.

Mr Hatfield was among officials who interviewed Dr Kelly twice about his BBC links.

In his evidence, Mr Hatfield said: "I was very surprised to hear that he thought we...betrayed him because I think we gave him a lot of support."

Inquiry counsel James Dingemans QC suggested "any fool" could have identified Dr Kelly from the MoD press release - but Mr Hatfield did not agreed.

David Kelly, government weapons proliferation adviser
Dr Kelly's widow said he felt let down by the MoD
"The public identification followed from his own act in talking to Mr Gilligan," said Mr Hatfield.

He denied suggestions from Mr Gompertz that Dr Kelly was left after his interviews with a "thoroughly misleading impression" of how he was being handled by his employers.

Dr Kelly had been told it was likely his name would become known, he said.

Care standards

Under tough questioning from Mr Gompertz, the personnel director stood by his claim that Dr Kelly was given "outstanding" care by the MoD.

He did not accept the scientist had been "wholly unaware" of the process or had not expected his name to become public.

And he defended the description of Dr Kelly as a "middle ranking" official, dismissing claims it had suited the government to play down his status.

BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan

Mr Hatfield told the inquiry it was a "fundamental failing" for Dr Kelly not to have reported his conversation with Mr Gilligan.

It was not enough for Dr Kelly to tell a Foreign Office official that he had met the BBC defence correspondent without giving details of what was said, he argued.

Mr Hatfield also denied claims the arrangements for reporting media contacts were a "muddle".

Mr Gompertz said officials in the Foreign Office and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), for whom Dr Kelly also worked, said the scientist was "scrupulous" in reporting his media contacts after they had happened.

But referring to Dr Kelly's meeting with Mr Gilligan, Mr Hatfield replied: "Well it is quite clear that he was not... because he tells us that he had not reported this contact or cleared it with anybody."

Two forensic computer experts who examined the electronic personal organiser used by Mr Gilligan to record his meeting with Dr Kelly are now giving evidence.

Mr Gilligan will be questioned again himself. On Wednesday, he stood by his dossier story but admitted making mistakes in live broadcasts.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's George Eykyn
"Working in Iraq and elsewhere, Dr Kelly had frequent contacts with journalists"



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