The good news is that the public will be able to see the key evidence being given at the Hutton Inquiry with their own eyes. The bad news is that they’ll have to travel to the tiny Tricycle Theatre in the London suburb of Kilburn to see it. In October.
The theatre’s enterprising decision to stage crucial parts of the inquiry, which opened this week at Courtroom 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice, has been made because television cameras have been banned from broadcasting anything but the opening and closing formalities.
It’s not the ?rst time the theatre group has staged something of this nature; it staged a similar reconstruction of the inquiry into the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s death. “The Tricycle stages these inquiries precisely because they are not broadcast,” says the theatre’s artistic director. “We hope very soon to see the day when we no longer need to stage them, through the Government ensuring that all public inquiries are fully available to the public in all media.”
They shouldn’t hold their breath.
Lord Hutton’s original guidance was that he wanted the inquiry to be held “mostly in public”, leading many to believe he would be taking the enlightened view that live radio and television broadcasts of evidence would be allowed. Some even quoted Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, the right to freedom of expression, as a reason he couldn’t refuse such a move.
But even though this was a red herring – he wasn’t stopping any journalist from reporting the case, after all – it is still extremely disappointing that Lord Hutton should follow his predecessors presiding over the Shipman, Arms to Iraq and Lawrence inquiries in barring broadcast access.
What is this inquiry about, if not Government secrecy and an unwillingness to allow the public to know the full truth? What better way of guaranteeing its integrity than by letting the world see it live, as it happens? Instead we end up with the usual array of court sketches, mock-ups, graphics and other clever broadcasters’ tricks to make coverage of such an important case compelling for viewers. However good these are, they will never be as revealing as watching the most senior government ministers – and, yes, journalists – under scrutiny.
Once again an opportunity arose to allow justice to be seen to be done; once again that opportunity has been ignored.