Louis Blom-Cooper BOOKtalk


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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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simple indeed. They are inquisitions, not adversarial. They

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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a satisfactory way with dealing with national scandals and public

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

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

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

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

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represented by lawyers and that they should first make their statements

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

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

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

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

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representatives at all. All the questioning of witnesses were done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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they determined the results of the enquiry which was very

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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a court case? the 20th century were dominated

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

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

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see whether it is credible, see whether it is

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

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sifting out the factual material, sifting out the factual

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

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now, Sir John Chilcot did the now, Sir John

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that was done without any lawyers that was done without any

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are not judicial enquiries, the government ministers, who are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that stage, from allegations against the person that fearless demands

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

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

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

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

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Chilcot took nearly two years after he drafted his report asking

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

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

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

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

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in Parliament that you have misbehaved yourself. You have to

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

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

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They came to the conclusion that there should be all these

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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tends to show, forensic psychologists have shown, that after

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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reference concentrating on the control by the police of the crowds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some fascinating lessons from the protracted enquiry in the bloody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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