Online phenomenon as website proves a big hit

THE website accompanying Lord Hutton’s inquiry is proving an online phenomenon - with well over a quarter of a million pages being downloaded every day.

Figures show that some 16,800 visitors are flocking to the online account of the trial daily and downloading an average of 17 pages of text before logging off.

The popularity is thought to stem from Lord Hutton’s decision to ban television cameras from the inquiry, but to make each confidential e-mail, letter and memo available on the internet within hours of being shown in the court.

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Set up by the Department of Constitutional Affairs, which now includes the functions of the Scotland Office, the site - www.the-hutton-inquiry. - displays more than 400 documents and e-mails revealing the tensions inside No 10. Its popularity has more than doubled since Lord Hutton stated hearing witnesses on Monday last week.

It peaked on Tuesday, the day that Alastair Campbell gave evidence, when 296,214 pages of evidence, memos and official letters were downloaded by web users from across the world.

According to the inquiry team, the website has become an indispensable tool for anyone with an interest in the Kelly inquiry.

It was created by web designers employed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs days after Downing Street announced the inquiry.

It is neither complex nor peppered with fancy technological gizmos, however its appeal lies in the fact it is easy to navigate and does not seek to hide the evidence.

On the home page, it displays only an image of Lord Hutton and the brief remit of his inquiry - "urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly".

On day one of the inquiry only 7,388 unique visitors visited the site, however between them they downloaded 136,283 pages of evidence.

In the wake of the publicity the first day produced, on day two the number of unique - or individual - users surfing on to the site nearly doubled and 219,995 pages of evidence were viewed.

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A member of the inquiry team said: "We’re getting calls from around the globe and that means people in dozens of countries are viewing the website.

"We were not sure how busy it would be before the inquiry as we are in an unique situation, but it is proving vital in transmitting information to the tens of thousands of people eager for news."

The only documents not posted to date were excerpts from Mr Campbell’s private diaries.