Louis Blom-Cooper BOOKtalk

Louis Blom-Cooper

Mark D'Arcy in discussion with Sir Louis Blom-Cooper about his book Public Inquiries: Wrong Route on Bloody Sunday.

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The speaker is required to have remarkable qualities.


Welcome to the programme. The saddle enquiries into the bloody Sunday


shootings in 1972 to 12 years, interviewed 500 witnesses and cost


?100 million. This could accomplish faster according to my guest, and he


has also looked into the public enquiries which are in danger of


being hijacked by lawyers. He has chaired an enquiry all to himself.


What are they expected to do, how are they different to a trial? Very


simple indeed. They are inquisitions, not adversarial. They


are to explain why it happened, how it happened and what, if anything


went wrong with the system that was being employed, and the services


that are there to support the system. No prosecutor, no defending


counsel or anything like that? Absolutely not. Lord Bingham said


they are akin to anything unlike the court of law. They are not intended


to have witnesses. They are to enquire into the circumstances and


are part of public administration and very important too. The idea is


to tell the public and the Government what went wrong, take


apart how it happened rather than say, he is to blame? Absolutely. The


question of who is to blame and who is to be liable for it is a format


for the ordinary courts, the civil and criminal courts. But these


enquiries are not about that. Our recent political history is dotted


with big public enquiries. There has been the Chilcot Inquiry, the Hutton


enquiry, dealing with aspects of Iraq. If we look back there was a


Scot enquiry in the arms to Iraq affair. There have been various


enquiries into child abuse cases over the years. DD successfully to


the public what happened in the end? Do they work? I think the answer


lies in what Sir Edward Heath said in 1992 when they were setting up


the Falklands Islands enquiry. He said we have never been able to find


a satisfactory way with dealing with national scandals and public


disasters. That was in 1982. The problem is people like me. I have to


confess I'm a convert. When I first did public enquiries in the 1980s,


Beckford, Carlisle, the cases of people who died, children who


died... The Salmon commission demands that witnesses should be


represented by lawyers and that they should first make their statements


before making their evidence. I was one of the people who thought that


was the right system until I did my own enquiries and I began to think


they were not the right way, and of course, ultimately, in the 1990s,


Lord Scott did the arms to Iraq Inquiry and he had no legal


representatives at all. All the questioning of witnesses were done


by him and his own counsel. You trace the history of how we got


here, and the wrong route involving bloody Sunday. If you go back a


century, David Lloyd George, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer got


into trouble with shares dealing, the so-called Marconi scandal, but


it didn't work very well? Because these enquiries were dealt with by


Parliament, there were party lines. Whichever party was in Government,


they determined the results of the enquiry which was very


unsatisfactory, but the principles set up the modern system worked for


different reasons. At that time, they were more concerned about the


proper enquiry getting the evidence or the documents it needed to see


and the oral evidence of the witnesses. It was about the right


procedure, and it adopted that of which the court adopted. One of the


things that happened was that they would be a judge residing over them,


but it isn't the same thing residing over an enquiry like this compare to


a court case? the 20th century were dominated


reason for that is nothing to do reason for that is nothing to do


with the status of the judge, it is because lawyers are familiar with


see whether it is credible, see whether it is


reliable, and they are very good for reliable, and they are very good


sifting out the factual material, sifting out the factual


and that is why very often they do cheer enquiries, although I think


now, Sir John Chilcot did the now, Sir John


that was done without any lawyers that was done without any


being involved. In fact, he did not being involved. In fact, he did not


even have his own lawyer to appear to ask questions. He and his panel


members did all the questioning. Lawyers seem to become dominant in a


lot of these enquiries, and is that partly because if you're a witness


in an enquiry and that enquiry might end up accusing you of incompetence


that led to people being killed or being a spy or complicit in child


abuse or even of killing someone unlawfully, don't you rather need a


lawyer, aren't you entitled to protection in those circumstances?


Well, it is rather like a comments made about lawyers, I express it by


saying they should always be on tap and another on top. They should


always be available to advise you and help you, but lawyers tend to


dominate, and they have done in the past in relation to enquiries. They


are not judicial enquiries, the government ministers, who are


responsible for the event, for example Bloody Sunday, the Ministry


of Defence was responsible for the Army and Northern Ireland in the


1970s, but... They were responsible for everything they did, but it is


not a question of finding guilt or innocence. That is a matter for the


courts of law, an enquiry is an inquisition into why and how it


happened, and to make sure it does not happen again. If individuals are


not criticised over an enquiry into something, whatever that is, should


you take that on the chin? But fearless is still an important


the should be able to give evidence the should be able to give evidence


in the enquiry and answer any alleged criticism against them, the


enquiries act of 2005, which is now the law, and as a satisfactory piece


of legislation, has moved. -- has moved the question of fearless from


that stage, from allegations against the person that fearless demands


that when the person who chairs the enquiry has drafted his report, if


he is criticises him, there is a general duty as a matter of


discretion, to tell that person, this is what I think I have to say


about your activity. What answer do you have? That is why Sir John


Chilcot took nearly two years after he drafted his report asking


questions to people who he might have criticised. This is the


so-called Maxwellisation process? It is an ugly word. It is simply


justice, you're entitled to be told about it if you are to be


criticised. Is one law just said years ago, it is like being stated


in Parliament that you have misbehaved yourself. You have to


suffer the damnation of it but it does not lead to any injury. Let us


apply all this to the case of the Jimmy Savile entirely. Why did


They came to the conclusion that there should be all these


principles, and it became the law as far as practitioners were concerned.


I was one of the people who did it, but we became converted very


quickly, but it was a great mistake that that was treating these


enquiries as if there were some -- they were some offshoot of the legal


system, whereas the not akin to any court of law. You did having these


enquiries throngs of very expensive lawyers mostly being paid for by the


public? There is that to it, but apart from paying for the lawyers,


because a lot of expense, a lot of enquiries are conducted in that way.


The is just a tonnage of paperwork that is automatically generated?


Absolutely, the automation was extremely good in the enquiry, and


the evidence was accumulated, and huge amounts of it, but I think most


people reckon it would have taken two or three years, not 12 and a


half. One of the things about the enquiry was you were going over old


ground, there had been an enquiry into Bloody Sunday which was


condemned by a lot of people as a whitewash but got the evidence


together at the time. So did that enquiry need to read collect the


evidence and revisit the whole thing, or could it have taken the


evidence and examined it again? Bloody Sunday was unique. The


killing took place in 15 minutes after a civil march of three and a


half hours, every Tom Dick and Harry of the media was there, journalists


galore, television cameras, there was a huge amount of documented the


material available, and one of the things I want to see very strongly


in the book is we do not pay enough attention to memory. It is quite


great that what you saw with your eyes and ears and nose at any time


is very important, but as time goes by, it gets distorted. Evidence


tends to show, forensic psychologists have shown, that after


time it becomes distorted. You hear facts about the event, years later,


and Bloody Sunday must've been talked about constantly on the


streets of Londonderry in the 1980s and 90s. So giving evidence 40 years


after the event, there is a great danger of the evidence being


unreliable, you cannot act upon it, and there was evidence from soldiers


who were on the march that day, so there was no need to go over all


that again and ask those people to give evidence which had been given


or not given 30 years ago. If it had been done quicker and more


effectively, is there a lesson there for future enquiries? There will be


disastrous, miscarriages of justice, scandals, more public enquiries in


the future, what should they learn from this? I do hope there is


something. One lesson I gather that is very important that the Minister


who sets up the enquiry says specifically what he wants. The


terms of reference and important. In the Bloody Sunday one, they were


asked to look at events and circumstances that took place on the


streets of Londonderry that they. They were very unspecific. That is


why I think Lord Saville's was minded to do was scurrilous, I think


it was a great mistake. In terms of reference -- terms of reference and


important, and while Hillsborough is very important, the enquiry held in


1989 for four or five months, was extremely good, and that is because


Lord Taylor who did the enquiry has given very specific terms of


reference concentrating on the control by the police of the crowds


at the Sheffield ground. But it did not get to the forged evidence?


Interestingly, he reported the failure of the police to control the


crowd, then he made one observation, that the police had behaved very


badly, and indicated there should be a further examination of police


behaviour, but there was some confusion about the notes he wrote,


the Home Secretary wrote to Margaret Thatcher and said, why should we


welcome the report? There was nothing done about it for 27 years.


Some fascinating lessons from the protracted enquiry in the bloody


Sandy Case. Thank you again. We will be backs -- in the Bloody Sunday


enquiry. We will be back again soon. Thank you again.


It is what happens when the Speaker needs MPs to vote on something, a


know. Let us just say I was an MP. know. Let us just say I was an MP.


If I wanted to vote against whatever was being proposed, I would head to


the no lobby. Or that we have I wanted to vote


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