Day 88, Part 1: Andy Coulson, the News of the World’s then editor, was alleged by a senior journalist to have been part of a criminal plot to receive information covertly obtained from MI6 wire tappings, the phone hacking trial heard today.
Shortly after he was arrested for intercepting voicemails in August 2006, Clive Goodman, the News of the World’s royal editor, told a senior executive that he had been receiving intercept information from SIS, the secret intelligence service known as MI6.
According to a handwritten account of a meeting made by Stuart Kuttner, the NoW’s managing editor, subsequently stored in News International’s archives and recovered by police, Mr Goodman said: “Told Andy this from the start.”
Cross-examining Mr Kuttner at the Old Bailey, Andrew Edis QC, for the Crown, asked why he had placed vertical lines against the remark, saying: “Is that because that was a piece of information that was of particular importance to you?”
Sending his third day in the witness box, Mr Kuttner, managing editor for 22 years, replied: “Yes.”
“Why was that?” inquired the prosecutor.
Mr Kuttner said: “Here was Clive Goodman giving an account of his activities and making a reference to the editor as being either a party to, or in the know.”
Mr Edis asked: “Where was the importance to you?”, to which Mr Kuttner, 74, replied: “It was a serious allegation against a member of our team.”
Mr Edis continued: “Because obviously this ‘spook’ would be committing a crime by handing over intercepts?”
“Indeed,” said Mr Kuttner. “Assuming there’s some validity to this.”
Told that it would have been a crime, Mr Kuttner mentioned the former MI6 spy David Shayler.
Pointing out that Mr Shayler had been jailed for leaking information to the media, Mr Edis said that while Mr Goodman’s claim could have been “nonsense” or it could have been true it “was pretty alarming information to you.”
Mr Kuttner, who frequently said he could not recollect events during his testimony, told the Old Bailey: “I was reporting what Clive Goodman was telling me.”
“I was not, to the best of my knowledge, analysing the consequences of what he was telling me.”
Mr Edis continued: “Now at the time a lot of what he was telling you was true, wasn’t it?”
“Well, he was certainly intercepting telephone communications,” the journalist replied.
Mr Edis pointed out that elsewhere in his handwritten note Mr Goodman had suggested that a senior member of staff had been hacking.
Mr Kuttner said that Mr Goodman “was a person who tended in my experience to embellish.”
Mr Edis told him: “He wasn’t embellishing the fact that he had been arrested, was he?”, to which Mr Kuttner replied: “Not at all.”
The prosecutor pointed out than in his notes Mr Kuttner had written that Mr Goodman was “desperately worried about legal fees” and had written: “Sal cont”
Mr Kuttner agreed this meant that Mr Goodman’s salary would be paid, telling the court: “I’m pretty sure that for the time being his salary would continue.”
Mr Edis protested: “He had just committed a crime.”
Mr Kuttner said: “Well, perhaps this was my interpretation: there was a process and it was not my view, and it is not my view, that you cut someone off at that moment, but let the process continue.”
The News of the World’s payments to Mr Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were cancelled a week after they pleaded guilty to phone hacking in January 2007, having implicated no-one else at the sentencing hearing.
Mr Kuttner, Mr Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News of the World between 2000 and 2003, deny conspiring to hack phones. The case continues.