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Phone-hacking trial: Kuttner's Milly Dowler email and the hacker's 'taskings'

By James Doleman |

December 18, 2013 | 9 min read

The case against Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others continued this morning with further reading of a transcript of police interviews with defendant and former managing editor of the News of the World Stuart Kuttner. As we reported yesterday, this involves a police officer in the witness stand reading out the questions asked at the interview and Mark Bryant-Heron QC reading out Kuttner's answers. Mr Kuttner himself was not in court due to ill-health.

Evidence: The Milly Dowler case was discussed in court

The officer questioning Kuttner showed him a contract between the News of the World (NotW) and convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire and asked if he had ever seen it before. Kuttner responded that he could not remember seeing it but did recall the weekly payments. The contract was signed by Greg Miskiw, the "assistant editor news and investigations" of the paper. Kuttner told the police that Miskiw would have had the authority to sign such a contract off but he would have expected there to have been a "dialogue with the editor" about it.

Kuttner was then shown a "contributor payment request" to Glenn Mulcaire from January 2007 and the police officer asked why Mulcaire was being paid even after he was convicted of phone-hacking. Kuttner replied that it was not his area of responsibility and he could not assist but suggested the possibility that it may have been money "owed to him".

The interview then moved on to the Milly Dowler case and Kuttner's role in the coverage of the missing teenager. Kuttner said there was a "synergy" between the case and the paper's campaign for "Sarah's Law", a proposal to publicly name child sex offenders. Kuttner said he had visited Surrey police to discuss a reward and possibly a poster campaign, however when asked how the meeting went he replied that he could "not recall".

Nor could Kuttner remember who else on the NotW was covering the issue or how many people would normally work on the story. Asked if he had "any other input", Kuttner responded that there was "one meeting and one or two phone calls". The interviewer then asked Kuttner about email contact between him and the police, and he replied that he could not recall any "but if you showed me an email then fair enough".

The police interviewer then asked Kuttner about the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. Kuttner replied that he had only read about it in the paper, adding that it "sounds on the face of it quite appalling". He denied, however, having any knowledge of the hacking or of conspiring with others to carry it out. Kuttner said "I'm stunned by these questions". Kuttner was then asked if anyone had shown him any of the content of Milly Dowler's voicemails, to which he replied "absolutely not".

The police officer then showed Kuttner an email sent by him to Sarah McGregor, a press liaison officer with Surrey police. In the email, already seen by the jury, Kuttner says the NotW had passed on information to the police about "messages on Amanda Dowler's mobile phone", he mentions an employment agency and offers the police a tape of the recordings. Kuttner was asked how the paper had obtained Dowler's mobile phone messages. He replied that he "did not know" and could not remember who had given them to him. Kuttner told the police interviewer: "There is no doubt I wrote it, I just don't remember it."

The interviewer then put it to Kuttner that he clearly knew the content of Milly Dowler's voicemail. "I do not have a detailed recollection of this, I cannot tell you without research where this information came from... if you allow me a little time I must have been passed the information and will find out where it came from," to which the officer replied: "That's my job to find out where it came from."

Kuttner replied that "the paper had information I was prepared to turn over to the police... the information must have been given to me... I need some time to investigate." The interview then ended.

The next interview was then played out, this one from September 2012. It opened with a statement from Kuttner's solicitor asking for advance disclosure of documents being put to his client. Kuttner then read a statement about the email discussed above saying he had "no memory" of writing the email or of who gave him the information contained within it.

The statement went on to say that Kuttner had no knowledge of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. Asked further questions by the investigating officer, Kuttner responded that it would be "unhelpful to speculate" about the email or its content. Kuttner told the police that "to the best of my knowledge I had nothing to do with it" although he agreed he must have written it. Asked more questions, Kuttner again repeated that he did not "wish to speculate" as this would be "not helpful".

The police officer then showed Kuttner a page from his own diary, which contained Milly Dowler's phone number and the name of one of the investigating officers. Asked to explain, he said: "This is speculation... but I was in touch with Surrey police with information I was given and I played the role of the formal go-between."

Kuttner was asked if he was aware that intercepting voicemail messages was against the law and that when he wrote the email to Surrey police he must have been aware that the paper had carried out an illegal act. Kuttner replied: "I don't accept your terminology."

Asked if he accepted that he had sent the email, Kuttner replied: "I don't recall the letter but I don't deny it either." The interview then concluded.

Kuttner's final interview was in May 2012. It opened with Mr Burton, Kuttner's solicitor, saying that his client was not willing to answer any questions but would read a statement. Kuttner expressed his shock at the accusations he was facing, adding that he had always helped the police but now, at 72 and coping with heart attacks and a stroke, he had "been plunged into a nightmare".

The statement went on to say that Kuttner found the pressure of police activity "intolerable" and he denied all of the charges. He then declined to answer any further questions.

The court then took a short break.

When court resumed the jury took their seats to hear new evidence relating to the charges of conspiracy to intercept voicemails. Mark Bryant-Heron QC called a police officer to the stand to be cross-examined by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who is defending former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.

Laidlaw asked the officer to confirm that convicted phone-hacker Glenn Mulcaire's notebooks were seized by police in 2006 and that this had led to the recovery of over 5,000 pages of material. Laidlaw asked the officer to confirm that the "tasking" of Mulcaire found on the notes were, police believed, related to four news editors at the NotW: Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, Ian Edmondson and James Weatherup. The police officer confirmed that around 2,200 of the documents related to those four names and 600 were from the period when Brooks edited the paper.

Laidlaw then reminded the jury that Miskiw was in place at the NotW before Brooks joined the paper and stayed in place after her departure to edit the Sun. Thurlbeck was also, Laidlaw said, working at the NotW before Brooks became editor.

The police witness then confirmed that two thirds of the tasking orders to Mulcaire came from Miskiw, and one third, around 200 requests, came from Thurlbeck. Laidlaw suggested to the officer that there were duplicate entries in the police schedule, possibly caused by taskings being transferred from one notebook to another by Mulcaire.

The defence, the QC said, had identified 61 such duplicates, of which 46 were accepted by the police. An example shown to the jury related to a tasking of Mulcaire for a detective chief superintendent David Cook, a reference to Surrey police and to Hendon police training school, whose details appear twice in the Mulcaire documents. Two other examples of duplication given were Jackie Holmes, another police officer and a barrister who was not named in court.

Asked by the The QC, the officer confirmed that some of the "taskings" found at Mulcaire's home went back to 1999, before Brooks became editor of the NotW, and that the name Clive appeared on two of them.

The court then rose for lunch.

Click here to view more posts from The Drum's daily trial coverage

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