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Widgery's failings were due to onset of dementia

Michael Mansfield wrote (Belfast Telegraph, June 21) 'Bloody Sunday - is nobody bothered that Widgery got it so wrong?'

Lord Widgery, Lord Chief Justice of England, appointed to chair a tribunal to inquire into the events in Londonderry of Sunday, January 30, 1972, issued his report in mid-April 1972, three-and-a-half months later, rather shorter in duration of consideration and in textual length than the 12-year and 10-volume Saville Report.

No judge in recent times has ever been found to have failed to exercise independent judgment. So, how did this noted judge come to produce such a damaging report, greeted angrily at the time as a whitewash and so described ever since?

Born in 1911, Widgery retired from the bench in 1980: his later years in office were marred by ill-health and mental decline.

Private Eye observed that "he sits hunched and scowling, squinting into his books from a range of three inches, his wig awry. He keeps up a muttered commentary of bad-tempered and irrelevant questions 'What d'you say?', 'Speak up', 'Don't shout', 'Whipper-snapper', etc". Widgery resisted attempts to get him to resign until the last moment in 1980. He died from dementia in 1981. A more likely explanation than conspiracy for the Widgery whitewash is that this senior judge was in the early stages of fatal brain disease.

MICHAEL HAMILTON

Kelso, Scotland

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