The BBC's Helen Boaden was on the witness stand today as Tony Newbery makes a last-ditch attempt to force the BBC to disclose who attended its mysterious seminar on climate change in 2006 (background here). If the Information Tribunal throws his case out, it's probably the end of the line.
Andrew Orlowski of the Register was there and describes what happened here. It looks like a fait accompli:
When it came to a cross examination by Newbery, David Marks QC, the presiding tribunal judge, threw a thick protective cloak around the BBC's star witness, refusing to allow the blogger to pose many of his questions to Boaden directly. As a result, most remained answered.
"If the BBC had no record of what was said," remarked Newbery, "the first part of the Chatham House Rule doesn't apply. I can't request it. It doesn't exist."
The judge sternly reminded Newbery that any line of enquiry that allowed the identity of the attendees to be inferred should not be allowed. Marks also stepped in where he thought Boaden may not have been able to answer. Marks even intervened to prevent one line of enquiry very germane to Newbery's case: the blogger wanted to know if the attendees were there in a private or public capacity.
”It could be both,” mused the judge. “I'm reluctant to allow Ms Boaden say anything about this. I doubt if she can add anything to what is a submission by you. You’re under a severe warning from me not to go anywhere near the question.”
[Update: Tony telephones, noting that he will be unable to report on what happened at his own blog for a few days. He's on the witness stand himself tomorrow.]