Nine of Britain’s top barristers, including legal luminaries involved in the Stephen Lawrence and Harold Shipman inquiries, will be at the centre of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of scientist David Kelly.

The gathering of legal big hitters present when Lord Hutton’s inquiry team begins questioning witnesses at 10.30am today also includes the barrister who represented Naomi Campbell in her legal action against the Daily Mirror last year.

Andrew Caldecott QC, a leading media barrister who represented investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre in his successful libel action against Kent police, and his colleague from the One Brick Court chambers, Sarah Palin, are representing the BBC.

Mr Caldecott acted for Campbell when she sued the Mirror for breach of confidence last year after it published pictures of her leaving a drug rehabilitation clinic.

During the case he famously described the Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, as a “disingenuous” and “unreliable” witness, who showed “complete intellectual poverty”.

Campbell initially won damages of £3,500 but this ruling was later overturned by the court of appeal, leaving the model facing a legal bill of up to £750,000.

Newsnight correspondent Susan Watts has chosen to employ her own solicitor, Fiona Campbell of Finer Stephens Innocent, to represent her at the inquiry.

The other two BBC journalists who used Dr Kelly as a source for Iraq dossier stories, the Today defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, and Ten O’Clock News reporter Gavin Hewitt, are relying on the corporation’s legal team.

Dr Kelly’s family is being represented by Jeremy Gompertz QC and Jason Beer, both barristers from the Five Essex Court chambers.

Mr Gompertz and Mr Beer acted for the Metropolitan Police during the inquiry and inquest into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, while Mr Beer also represented a government department during the Shipman inquiry.

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