Evidence relating to the death of Government weapons inspector David Kelly is to be kept secret for 70 years, it has been reported.
A highly unusual ruling by Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, means medical records including the post-mortem report will remain classified until after all those with a direct interest in the case are dead, the Mail on Sunday reported.
And a 30-year secrecy order has been placed on written records provided to Lord Hutton’s inquiry which were not produced in evidence.
The Ministry of Justice said decisions on the evidence were a matter for Lord Hutton. But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has conducted his own investigations into Dr Kelly’s death, described the order as “astonishing”.
Dr Kelly’s body was found in woods close to his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after it was revealed that he was the source of a BBC report casting doubt on the Government’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being fired within 45 minutes.
An inquest was suspended by then Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, who ruled that Lord Hutton’s inquiry could take its place. But in the event, the inquiry focused more on the question of how the BBC report came to be broadcast than on the medical explanation for Dr Kelly’s death.
Lord Hutton’s report in 2004 concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by cutting an artery in his wrist. But the finding has been challenged by doctors who claim that the weapons inspector’s stated injuries were not serious enough.
One of the doctors seeking a full inquest, former assistant coroner Michael Powers, told the Mail on Sunday he had seen a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council explaining the unusual restrictions placed by Lord Hutton on material relating to his inquiry.
The letter states: “Lord Hutton made a request for the records provided to the inquiry, not produced in evidence, to be closed for 30 years, and that medical (including post-mortem) reports and photographs be closed for 70 years.”
Dr Powers asked: “Supposedly all evidence relevant to the cause of death has been heard in public at the time of Lord Hutton’s inquiry. If these secret reports support the suicide finding, what could they contain that could be so sensitive?”