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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Kelly inquiry will not be televised
Lord Hutton opens his inquiry
Lord Hutton said televising hearings was not necessary to get a fair trial
Hearings into the events surrounding the death of government weapons expert Dr David Kelly will not be televised, inquiry chairman Lord Hutton has ruled.

The top judge on Tuesday rejected an appeal from broadcasters against his decision to bar television cameras from the inquiry.

Sky and ITN argued that the probe, which begins on Monday, needed to be televised to be truly open to the public.

But Dr Kelly's family made the case that the 59-year-old's death had "caused them distress enough" and would turn their private loss into "the nation's entertainment".

Witness concerns

In his ruling, Lord Hutton said televising the hearings would put an extra strain on the inquiries witnesses, which are expected to include Dr Kelly's wife Janice, Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell.

He also dismissed the broadcasters' argument that only by televising the proceedings could the public get a fair view of what was being said.

Lord Hutton pointed to the widespread publicity the inquiry would attract in any case.

Dr Kelly's wife Janice Kelly (right) with an unnamed woman
Dr Kelly's death has caused the family 'distress enough'
"Those who give evidence will be placed under strain even if their evidence is not filmed and broadcast on television," he said.

"But the strain will be all the greater if they know that their evidence is being filmed and broadcast and that every answer, every qualification or correction of an answer, every hesitation, every facial expression and every alteration of their posture will be watched by hundreds of thousands of people on their television screens and will be liable to be replayed on television on a number of occasions."

Inquiry precedents

The judge noted the argument that members of the public should be able to see the body language of witnesses.

But he said: "This knowledge might well inhibit some witnesses from speaking as frankly as they would otherwise do, and that filming them would not assist me in my task of trying to determine as precisely as is possible what happened during the period which preceded Dr Kelly's death."

Televising only the questioning of politicians and television journalists would also cause problems if their evidence conflicted with untelevised hearings, he argued.

Opening the inquiry to television would have made it a more transparent and open process
Nick Pollard
Sky News
Lord Hutton insisted many major inquiries had been open to press and public but not been televised.

"But that has not meant that the inquiry has not been a public inquiry," he said.

Radio broadcasting of the inquiry is also banned since this would add "unjustifiable additional strain" on witnesses, although Lord Hutton acknowledged the extra strain would not be as great as that caused by TV cameras.

Disappointment

After the ruling, Nick Pollard, head of Sky News, said: "This is an important event that will generate a lot of interest.

"Opening the inquiry to television would have made it a more transparent and open process."

Mark Wood, chief executive of ITN, said: "We are disappointed by Lord Hutton's decision.

"We believe there is a strong public interest case for the public to see for themselves key witnesses giving evidence to this most important inquiry, in particular those people who are public servants or representatives of the media."

Last week, the Kelly family's barrister, Jeremy Gompertz, QC, argued against televising the inquiry on the family's behalf.

"The family feels that the presence of television cameras at the inquiry would only serve to intensify the ordeal which the family faces and the pressure upon them," he said.

The family was also worried that televising the hearings would turn its "private loss into the nation's entertainment", he said.

Geoffrey Robertson, QC, representing the broadcasters, including Channel 4 News, Channel 5 News and IRN, argued that 65% of people receive news from the television.

TV was "often a truer medium" capable of portraying a witness's tone of voice, body language and demeanour in a way newspapers could not, he said.

Mr Robertson said the broadcasters were not seeking to televise evidence from the Kelly family or from witnesses related to the finding of the body.

They would be interested in filming "the cabinet minister, the politician and those familiar with the media", including broadcast journalists.




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