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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 01:11 GMT
Lord Hutton retires as Law Lord
Lord Hutton
Lord Hutton's report into the death of David Kelly is due this month
Lord Hutton, whose report into the death of weapons expert David Kelly will be published soon, is officially retiring as a Law Lord on Sunday.

The 72-year-old peer had announced his intention to resign to Senior Law Lord, Lord Bingham, some months before the six-week Hutton Inquiry began.

His retirement will not affect his work in writing the report inquiry.

Lord Hutton's other high profile cases included those involving General Pinochet and rebel spy David Shayler.

But, despite 10 years as Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland and a legal career stretching back to the 1950s, it is the Hutton Inquiry for which the peer will probably be most remembered.

'Sexed up' claims

It centres around the death of former UN weapons inspector David Kelly who was found dead at an Oxfordshire beauty spot near his home in July 2003, just days after he appeared before the Commons foreign affairs select committee.

Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide shortly after being named as the suspected source for Andrew Gilligan's BBC report claiming the government "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Lord Hutton was called to the bar in his homeland of Northern Ireland in 1954 and by 1970 was a QC, before being called to the bar in England soon afterwards.

He became a High Court judge for Northern Ireland in 1979, cutting his teeth as a judge in the 1970s at the height of the Troubles.

Several fellow judges were murdered and his own name was later found on an IRA hit list.

High-profile cases

Lord Hutton, who enjoyed a reputation for independence and fairness throughout his career, became an English Lord of Appeal - sitting in the Lords and hearing final appeals - in 1997.

He was one of the law lords who criticised Lord Hoffman for his role in the extradition proceedings against General Augusto Pinochet.

1954 Admitted to the bar
1979 High Court judge
1988 Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice
1997 English Lord of Appeal
Lord Hoffman had contributed to a decision that the former Chilean leader could be arrested and extradited for crimes against humanity without emphasising his own links to human rights group Amnesty International.

Lord Hutton said "public confidence in the integrity of the administration of justice would be shaken" if Lord Hoffman's ruling was not overturned.

The law lord was also involved in the ruling that David Shayler, the former MI5 agent, could not argue he was acting in the public interest by revealing secrets.

BBC political correspondent John Andrew said it is ironic that the report Lord Hutton will be best remembered for will be published in his retirement.

Whatever his findings, the inquiry has already made history by its openness and revelations about the workings of inner government, he added.

Report controversy continues

Conservative leader Michael Howard has challenged Tony Blair to confirm he will face MPs in a full Commons debate on the Hutton report.

When it comes out, the prime minister is expected to make an immediate Commons statement and answer MPs' questions for an hour.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair said he would step down if found to have lied over Dr Kelly
But Mr Howard has asked Mr Blair if he will lead a full Commons debate.

Number 10 said nothing was ruled in or out.

Commons leader Peter Hain has previously said the government wants to wait until the report has been published before deciding who will open the debate.

Mr Blair's official spokesman insisted on Saturday that no decision had yet been taken.

Both the BBC and the government are braced for criticism when the judge reports on events leading up to Dr Kelly's death.

Mr Blair has said he would resign if it was found he had lied over the affair.


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