Kuttner told MPs that he and Coulson were 'deceived' - Press Gazette

Kuttner told MPs that he and Coulson were 'deceived'

Former managing editor of the News of the World Stuart Kuttner gave evidence to MPs on the culture select committee on 21 July, 2009, alongside former editor of the paper Andy Coulson.

They were called in the wake of new allegations about widespread phone-hacking at the News of the World which were broken by The Guardian on 8 July.

Kuttner described his job as acting as a ‘bridge between the journalists and the management; a bridge between managerial and admin tasks and journalism”.

He said: ‘I would fairly regularly write articles for the newspaper; I would go out, from time to time, and conduct interviews, on the one hand, and, at the same time, I would be overseeing the budget of the newspaper, on the other.”

Kuttner’s resignation announcement came on the same day that The Guardian made its new phone-hacking revelations, on 8 July.

He told MPs on 21 July: ‘My resignation is not linked to this matter, I know it is not linked to this matter and, moreover, there are legal documents in existence with News International‘s counsel and my own lawyers that make that position perfectly clear”.

He said: ‘Discussions after a very long career in journalism about a retirement, a stepping aside, a stepping down, call it what you will, had gone on for months and arrangements were agreed quite some time before anything appeared in The Guardian newspaper.”

Talking about the resignation of then NoW editor Andy Coulson in January 2007, Kuttner said: ‘I deeply regret the circumstances in which Andy Coulson left the News of the World. He was a very fine editor of that newspaper and it was a very unhappy, traumatic time for the management of what I will call ‘my newspaper’, although I do not edit it.

‘Do I think that Andy Coulson should have been told more, could have been given more information, that I left him down? No, I do not. He has said that he and I were deceived.

‘There are in life, I am afraid, people who engage in such activity. In the grand scheme of things, with thousands and thousands of payments for stories, pictures, features and articles and sports reports going through our systems, and, as you have heard from previous witnesses, the entirely valid, legitimate Mulcaire contract, a relatively small but regrettable number of false cash payments were created and were approved, on the whole – not always but generally – by me, unknowing, and in those circumstances, as I said a few moments ago, I think the arrests and what followed, and the bringing in of the independent lawyers, right from the start, was, in my long experience, one of the most traumatic and unhappy events that I have known in newspapers.”

Talking about his work as managing editor, and the authorisation of payments, Kuttner said: ‘I work and managing editor colleagues work – very closely with an internal accountant. There are both internal and external audits, as there are in any big company.

‘The improper payments were a serious but tiny percentage of the overall number of payments that a big newspaper makes and came to light, as you know, as a result of a very substantial police investigation. When they did, we took a number of actions to do what we could to prevent anything of that nature occurring again.

‘Where you have long-serving, experienced and trusted journalists coming forward – and, I have to say, relatively occasionally in the sense that, with perhaps one exception, there was no large pattern – with information and saying: ‘Look, in order to get this information from someone who is in a sensitive position, I need to make this payment in cash’; where that journalist is a long-serving, relatively senior and trusted person, with hindsight one would do all sorts of different things but I do not have hindsight – I guess nobody else here does either – you accept the information being laid before you at face value, unless there is some reason to be suspicious of it.

‘In my experience, and as you have heard from Andy Coulson, in his too, at the News of the World, there was no reason to be suspicious of it.”



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette