Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner seeks return of £135,000 spent fighting hacking prosecution - Press Gazette

Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner seeks return of £135,000 spent fighting hacking prosecution

News International has dropped an application for costs incurred in relation to the multimillion-pound phone-hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks and her staff, a court has heard.

The former News Of The World editor was acquitted of being part of the hacking conspiracy along with her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 50, and News International head of security Mark Hanna, 51, following a 139-day trial.

Today, at the start of a costs hearing, the Old Bailey heard that News International, now known as News UK, will not proceed with the application to have its considerable costs repaid.

Robert Smith QC, representing News UK, said: "It is submitted that the allegations against News UK on the basis of apparently reliable evidence produced during the trial, News UK had failed to displace after being given a proper opportunity to do so.

"The fact nevertheless remains that we would like to bring to the court's attention the sheer scale of that exercise which has troubled us, your lordship, throughout.

"It is following that that News UK have indicated that they have not felt willing to engage in an exercise which involves addressing these issues in these proceedings.

"The end result is that News UK would not seek or accept any part of any order by way of costs from central funds, public funds or however one wishes to express it."

Jonathan Laidlaw QC, representing Brooks, 46, said she had already made clear she did not intend to recover her personal expenses incurred during the case.

He told the court: "Having been the beneficiary of an indemnity for her legal costs from News, as my learned friend Mr Smith has correctly indicated, any monies which would have been the subject of a claims case order would have automatically gone to News to compensate them for the financial support they were good enough to afford to her during her trial.

"I formally withdraw the application on her behalf.

"Mrs Brooks has already indicated that she was not seeking and did not wish to recover her personal expenses for the trial from the public purse."

Her husband, Charlie Brooks, 51, and retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 74, (pictured: Reuters) were also found not guilty of being part of the hacking conspiracy, which dates back to 2000, but are continuing to seek their costs, the court heard.

Racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, who attended the hearing, is seeking ballpark costs of £600,000, the court heard.

Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Kuttner, said he paid out "from his own pocket a little less than £135,000" until News UK indemnified him from January 2013 onwards.

Rebekah Brooks was cleared of hacking, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office for allegedly signing off payments to a Sun journalist's "number one military contact" between 2004 and 2012, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perverting the course of justice.

Her husband was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011, while Kuttner was also cleared of hacking.

Carter was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice by removing seven boxes from the NI archive days before she was arrested in 2011 while Hanna was cleared of perverting the course of justice around the time of police searches in July 2011.

The court heard that prosecutors may have been led to believe their case was stronger than it was by how the defendants behaved both before and after their arrest.

Caplan said the answer to this in respect of Kuttner was a "resounding no".

"Mr Kuttner was one of the few who gave full answers to very lengthy interview sessions with police," he said.

He also pointed out that Kuttner had alerted police to a message on murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone, not realising that the method of obtaining the information – through phone-hacking – may have constituted a crime.

Neil Saunders, representing Charlie Brooks, said his actions "may have been unwise, but not criminal".

Referring to the fact that Brooks answered "no comment" when questioned by police, Saunders said: "He clearly brought suspicion on himself. But it has to be something more than a 'no comment'."

Ahead of listening to the legal argument, the judge, Mr Justice Saunders, told the court to remember that the defendants had been cleared by a jury.

"I have the greatest respect for the system and the greatest respect for the jury's decision in this case and nothing under discussion should be seen as going against this," he said.

"The defendants have been found innocent."

The judge is expected to announce his ruling on the costs application tomorrow.

A spokesman for News UK said: "Given the certainty that our costs would continue to increase disproportionately, we've taken the pragmatic view not to seek repayment from the defendants for legal costs borne by the company."



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