Socialist Worker

Slavishly loyal to his masters

Lord Hutton's background shows he could be relied on to do the bidding of the government

Issue No. 1887

BARON HUTTON of Bresagh was appointed to head the inquiry into the death of David Kelly by Lord Falconer, a close friend of Tony Blair. Another of Blair's friends may have influenced their choice. As Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland, Hutton would have worked closely with disgraced spin doctor and former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson.

Hutton was made a law lord in 1997. All 12 law lords are male, white and over 58 years old. All of them went to university at Oxford or Cambridge. Like his colleagues, Hutton received the best education money could buy. He attended Brackenber House, an 'exclusive preparatory school' in Belfast. From there he went on to Shrewsbury, a top public school. He studied law at Balliol College, Oxford, and Queen's University, Belfast.

He entered the Northern Ireland legal establishment, a system which systematically discriminated against the Catholic minority. In one of his first major cases he helped prosecute Bernadette Devlin, independent MP for Mid Ulster. Devlin was a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. In 1968 she was involved in the 'Battle of the Bogside'-riots which broke out when police invaded Catholic areas of Derry with armoured vehicles.

Hutton helped to ensure that she was sentenced to six months in jail. The same year he was made a QC, entering the top ranks of the British legal system. Three years later he was promoted again, becoming legal adviser to the Ministry of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland. He represented the Ministry of Defence at the Widgery inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre after British troops opened fire on civil rights marchers, killing 13 people.

The Derry city coroner accused the army of 'sheer unadulterated murder'. But Hutton told the coroner, 'It is not for you or the jury to express such wide-ranging views, particularly when a most eminent judge has spent 20 days hearing evidence and come to a very different conclusion.' The Widgery inquiry was another whitewash. In 1973 the British government stood accused of inhuman and degrading treatment of internees.

Hutton led the defence for the British government at the European Court of Human Rights. In 1979 he became a High Court judge. He presided over the notorious Diplock courts, which sat without a jury. Judges in these courts were known for working closely with the police and intelligence services and handing down tough sentences to Catholics.

In 1986 an officer from the Royal Ulster Constabulary killed Sean Downes, an unarmed Catholic protester, with a plastic bullet. Hutton rushed to acquit the officer. By 1988 he had again been promoted, this time to Chief Justice for Northern Ireland. A profile in the Belfast Telegraph described him as 'the very epitome of a judge. He doesn't have much contact with ordinary people-how could he have?'

The brutal Chilean dictator General Pinochet visited Britain in 1997. Law lord Lord Hoffman wanted Pinochet arrested and extradited to Chile. But Hutton, now a law lord himself, helped to overturn the decision, claiming that Hoffman's membership of Amnesty International invalidated his judgement.

Two years later lawyers representing families of those killed on Bloody Sunday at the Saville inquiry challenged the legal requirement that QCs must swear loyalty to the queen. Hutton wrote to the attorney general saying, 'If you decide to remove the requirement for a declaration it will appear that you are being influenced by political pressure to alter the procedure relating to an office which links Northern Ireland with the Crown.'

Hutton was one of the law lords who ruled against former MI5 agent David Shayler. Shayler was trying to expose crimes committed by British intelligence agents. But Hutton decided such revelations were not in the public interest. He had a history of loyalty to the establishment. He had close contact with the intelligence services. Hutton was the ideal judge to let Blair off the hook.

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