Internet Newsletter for Lawyers
November/December 2003, by Delia Venables

The Hutton Inquiry: How It's Done

"It is important that the public should know every word of evidence which is spoken at this Inquiry and should know the full contents of every document which is referred to in evidence."
Lord Hutton's Opening Statement

The Website -
Note from Mike Wicksteed of the Department for Constitutional Affairs

The Prime Minister announced the setting up of Lord Hutton's Inquiry on 19th July. Officials in the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) immediately took steps to build a website for the Inquiry which went live the following week - the aim being to keep it accessible and simple.

The web team is led by DCA's technical web manager, Catherine Arthur, and Phil Golding who is responsible for DCA Internet content management. They worked to create the Hutton website and have managed its daily running in addition to their normal DCA web responsibilities. In total about eight people (from the IT section at the Royal Courts of Justice, Hutton Inquiry secretariat officials and DCA web staff) have been involved off and on.

Systems for getting material onto the site were also kept simple. Personal information contained in documentary evidence was edited out by the Hutton Inquiry Secretariat, the files were then scanned into PDF format and passed to the web team to upload. An electronic format of the transcript of each morning and afternoon session was passed to the Inquiry web team for coding and posting onto the website with the aim of getting transcripts and daily evidence on the website within four hours of the end of each session. We mostly succeeded.

There are currently well in excess of 1,000 PDF documents on the Inquiry website. Hearings started on 11 August and during August, daily unique accesses averaged about 13,500 and daily pages views around 200,000. There was a peak of 34,000 unique accesses and nearly 500,000 page views on 24th August when the first batch of full documentary evidence was posted up.

Transcription of the Hearings
Note from Sarah Andrews, of WordWave

During the formal hearings, WordWave stenographers used their award-winning software LiveNote to produce highly accurate real-time transcripts, sent direct to participants' laptop computers as the evidence was given. Participants were also able to view documents, video links and other evidence easily throughout the proceedings.

At the end of each day, WordWave emailed the transcripts to the DCA web team, who published them on the web, giving the public and the media easy, speedy access to the Inquiry - of crucial importance in such a high-profile case.

Over the first 22 days of formal hearings, WordWave stenographers transcribed over 1 million words at speeds of up to 250 words per minute, maintaining an accuracy rating of 98 per cent - the gold standard for transcription.

Lord Hutton himself said "We have all greatly admired the remarkable skills of the stenographers in producing such an excellent and accurate record."

WordWave has also provided stenographers for the Shipman Inquiry, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry and, most recently, the Climbie Inquiry.

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