Phone-hacking trial: Trust, saving money and the Archbishop

The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, the prime minister's former director of communications Andy Coulson and six others began at the Old Bailey on 28 October. The Drum will be in court for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least four months, and will provide comprehensive updates on this blog.

The trial is scheduled to examine seven counts that include conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Coverage will be provided by James Doleman, who was acclaimed for his exhaustive and responsible reporting of the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial.

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey

  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury testifies for Kuttner
  • "I'm not a suspicious person," defendant tells court
  • Other private detectives hired despite Mulcaire contract
  • Court resumed to hear a character witness for former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner from the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey. His testimony has been interposed between Kuttner's cross-examination due to pressure of time. Carey told the court that after his retirement as archbishop, he wrote for the News of the World several times a year and became friends with the defendant as he admired his integrity and concerns about social issues. Carey said Kuttner had a deep sense of ethics and was a man he could trust. Carey then stepped down from the stand and the cross-examination continued.

    Andrew Edis, lead prosecuting counsel, then returned to events after former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman had been arrested for phone hacking in 2006. Edis asked why Goodman was paid 12 months' wages in lieu of notice after being dismissed for gross misconduct and later another large sum of money to avoid an employment tribunal case. Kuttner said he was not involved in those decisions so could not comment.

    The prosecution QC then asked the witness about his testimony that he "trusted" people in his newspaper. Kuttner said that journalists were trusted to write articles that were true and not in contempt of court. Edis put it to the witness that in this case they were talking about ensuring "value for money" for the paper. "How did you do that without asking questions about sources," the barrister asked "I'm not a naturally suspicious person, and had no reason to suspect my colleagues were duping or deceiving the paper ,and in this case if the royal editor had a contact who was going to produce useful material I had no concern about approving those payments," Kuttner said. "So you weren't doing your job at all," Edis suggested. "I reject that," Kuttner responded.

    The court was then shown a document outlining the role of the managing editor at the News of the World. This, Edis pointed out, gave Kuttner the responsibility for approval of budgets including "payments to private investigators" and the "monitoring and auditing of these payments". Kuttner said "that is possibly of too wide a nature" and that it overstated his actual responsibilities. "I'm not sure about monitoring and auditing, they are not terms I would apply," the witness added. "Did you know who was getting the money and what it was for," Edis asked. "Not necessarily," the defendant replied.

    The prosecutor asked the witness what services Glenn Mulcaire provided for the News of the World. "It has now emerged, to my distress, that he provided phone interception services," Kuttner replied. "What did you know at the time he was doing for his money," Edis asked. "I was told at the time he was providing private investigator services, tracking down people, surveillance, checking county court judgements," the defendant replied. "Did you ever see any evidence he had ever done anything at all for his £100,000 a year," the QC asked. "In my position I would not have expected to see anything of that type," Kuttner said, adding that Greg Miskiw, who signed the contract with Mulcaire, "was a senior member of staff and I had no reason to doubt his word". Edis suggested to the witness that "trust" was not enough and "it was your job to look after the money". "I oversaw the budget," Kuttner said.

    The lead prosecutor asked Kuttner about his "paranoia" about leaks, and suggested this showed that he did not always "trust his journalists". The witness was asked why he secured the phone records of a journalist suspected of leaking a story. "Did you trust him," Edis asked. "I was asked to do that by someone else," the defendant replied. The prosecutor then asked Kuttner if he thought paying police officers was wrong or could be justified in the public interest. "I think, and this is a hypothetical example, if a police officer came to us and had evidence the chief constable was corrupt I think that should be considered." "So it is justifiable in some circumstances," Edis asked. "I've never ran into that situation," Kuttner replied.

    Kuttner was then asked about his involvement with a case involving Neville Thurlbeck. The witness said: "I do not have this information in my mind. I apologise sir, I don't mean to be disrespectful." "He was acquitted of making corrupt payments to police officers," Edis reminded the witness. "That does come as new information to me," he replied. Kuttner was then shown emails from 2000 between himself and Rebekah Brooks discussing giving Thurlbeck a pay rise on his return to work after being acquitted, a suggestion Kuttner rejected. Edis suggested that if this small rise was a problem, what would the attitude be to hiring a new employee on £100,000 a year (Mulcaire was given a £100,000 contract in 2000) and asked whether this would need to be referred to the board of directors. "I don't know," Kuttner replied. "I don't know if my memory losses are a result of the passage of time or brain damage from strokes," he added.

    Court then took a short break.

    When the jury returned, Andrew Edis QC gave them three documents. The first of these was a list of private investigators used by the News of the World in 1999 which Kuttner agreed he had prepared for then news editor Greg Miskiw. The defendant said this was an attempt to reduce the costs of investigators. "Was the plan to stop using these people and just use Mulcaire," Edis asked, "that's my recollection," Kuttner replied. The prosecution QC asked the witness if the paper still used a company run by Steve Whitamore even after Mulcaire was employed. "I have no recollection of that," Kuttner said."You signed the cheques," Edis suggested. "I'm sorry I don't know," the witness replied. Kuttner could recall the paper using a Derek Webb, who, he told the court, "specialised in surveillance".

    The court was then shown a list of payments made to Webb from 2003 to 2008 which totalled around £55,000 over the period. "How did that happen if you have done this deal to hand over all of this work to Glen Mulcaire's company, 9 consultancy," the prosecution barrister asked. "I could speculate, but I really don't know," Kuttner replied. "My job was to oversee the editorial budget. I took a view that the departmental spending was the responsibility of the head's of departments." "When Mr Webb came on board didn't you wonder why this was happening when you had signed the contract with 9 consultancy," Edis asked. "I can't recall sir," the defendant replied, adding "what I'm going to suggest is that many of these payments may have been signed off by the news desk independently of me".

    The prosecution QC highlighted to the court that the authorising code on the payments was "S.Kutt" and suggested that "it doesn't appear that your approval of Mr Mulcaire's contract saved any money at all, Mulcaire was hired to provide an additional service, telephone investigations", "If he was it was entirely without my approval," the defendant responded. "Any suggestion whatever that I was a party to any phone hacking activity are utterly without foundation."

    Judge Saunders then asked Kuttner what surveillance meant to the News of the World. The witness gave the example of "two prominent people we thought were having an affair so we would have them watched". "Where did you draw the line on intrusion," the judge asked, reminding the court about the paper using lip readers to monitor private conversations at public events. "We might do that at a royal event to see what was being said by the queen on the balcony but not at a private event."

    Court then adjourned until tomorrow morning

    All of the defendants deny all of the charges, the trial continues.

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