Summary:

Stuart Kuttner, the public face of the News of the World and its most vocal public defender for 22 years, has been has been arrested by poli…

News of the World coverage
photo: Getty Images / Stewart Stanley

Stuart Kuttner, the public face of the News of the World and its most vocal public defender for 22 years, has been has been arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking and of bribing police officers to leak sensitive information.

As managing editor until his resignation in July 2009, Kuttner was in charge of finances at the now-defunct tabloid.

Kuttner, 71, was described at the time of his resignation by the last editor of the newspaper, Colin Myler, as a man whose “DNA is absolutely integrated into the newspaper which he has represented across the media with vigour”. Kuttner reportedly did not know he was going to be taken into custody when he arrived by appointment at a police station in London on Tuesday at 11am for questioning over the phone-hacking scandal.

Police from both Operation Weeting and Elvedon, the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police, are understood to have arrested Kuttner who is suffering serious health problems and recently returned from the US for treatment.

Kuttner is believed to have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977, and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

They are the same allegations that Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and ex-News International chief executive, faces since her arrest last month.

When Brooks faced a Commons culture, media and sport select committee hearing last month she told MPs that payments to private investigators were the responsibility of the paper’s managing editor’s office.

Brooks admitted using private investigators during her time as editor of the now defunct tabloid between 2000 and 2003 for, she claimed, “purely legitimate” purposes. When asked whether she had ever discussed individual payments to private investigators with Kuttner, she admitted that “payments to private investigators would have gone through the managing editor’s office”. But, she added: “I can’t remember if we ever discussed individual payments.”

Kuttner’s role as the public face of the News of the World proved to be key to the tabloid under the editors, Rebekah Brooks – then Rebekah Wade – and her replacement, Andy Coulson, both of whom were reluctant to talk to the media.

When Brooks’s “Sarah’s Law” campaign caused public hysteria in some towns and cities across the UK, prompting some Portsmouth residents to burn the homes of suspected paedophiles, it was Kuttner who faced the cameras.

He also played a role in the paper’s dealing with Sara Payne in the years after her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah, was abducted and murdered in July 2000.

The Guardian revealed last week that Payne’s mobile phone had been targeted by Mulcaire at a time when key members of the newspaper’s executive staff were working hard to forge what Payne believed to be a close and genuine friendship. Kuttner was one of those who attended the funerals of her parents.

No reason was given for Kuttner’s departure from the newspaper two years ago, shortly before the Guardian exclusive that blew the phone-hacking story wide open. At the time, News International said he would continue to work on “specialised projects”, including its Sarah’s Law campaign.

In February 2008, he appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme and claimed the News of the World was a “watchdog” which guarded against corruption among those in positions of power: “If [the use of private investigators] happens, it shouldn’t happen. It happened once at the News of the World. The reporter was fired; he went to prison. The editor resigned.”

He went on to argue that British journalism is “a very honourable profession” and that newspapers such as the News of the World had to act as watchdogs because “we live in an age of corrosion of politics and of public life – degradation”.

His role as the public face of the News of the World continued when he visited Soham in 2002, following the disappearance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, to defend the tabloid’s decision to offer a reward of £150,000 in conjunction with the Sun newspaper for information that could lead to their safe return.

He also appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost, responding to criticism of the reward and saying the man leading the investigation into the girls’ disappearance, Detective Superintendent David Hankins, had welcomed it.

The managing editor was also an influential presence behind the scenes. When Gordon Brown and Tony Blair gave their first joint newspaper interview for more than 10 years to the tabloid in April 2005, Kuttner’s byline was on the story, along with that of Ian Kirby, the paper’s long-serving political editor.

The arrest of Kuttner, who was news editor at the London Evening Standard before moving to the NoW in 1987, is the 11th by Operation Weeting police, who are conducting the current investigation into phone hacking.

After being questioned by police – a process that lasted 12 hours in the case of Brooks – he is expected to be released on bail until October.

Others arrested and bailed have included Brooks, ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson, ex-NoW assistant editor Ian Edmondson, ex-NoW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, senior ex-NoW journalist James Weatherup, freelance journalist Terenia Taras, an unnamed 63-year-old man, and ex-NoW royal editor Clive Goodman.

Operation Elveden was also involved in Kuttner’s arrest. Officers from Elveden are being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

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This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.

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