Day 89, Part 1: A newspaper executive on trial at the Old Bailey was an influential behind-the-scenes advisor to the Press Complaints Commission, a former PCC boss told the court today.
Baron Black of Brentwood, director of the PCC for seven years, said that Stuart Kuttner, accused of phone hacking, had helped the industry regulator deal with “high profile or tricky” complaints.
Appearing as character witness for the News of the World’s 74-year-old former managing editor, Lord Black told the jury that Mr Kuttner had been “immensely professional.”
The Conservative life peer said that when he took charge of the PCC in 1996 its chairman, Lord Wakeham, suggested he contact Mr Kuttner because he was “an enormously important figure in the newspaper industry”.
Another senior industry figure, Fleet Street veteran Sir Edward Pickering, had echoed the advice, said Lord Black, who ran the PCC until 2003.
He told the Old Bailey: “I then saw Stuart and spoke to Stuart throughout my time at the PCC.
Sometimes there would be a very high profile or tricky complaint we needed to deal with and Stuart would be the person I always would try to talk it through with.
“On other occasions there might have been something very high profile that had happened and I would speak to him about how we managed a solution across the newspaper industry.”
Mr Kuttner had helped broke a PCC deal with newspaper editors to withdraw reporters from Dunblane after the massacre in 1996 and similarly from Omagh after the bombing in the town in 1998, the Conservative peer said.
Lord Black, now executive director of Telegraph Media Group, said: “Stuart would have been virtually always the first person I spoke to.
“Stuart would always be able to advise me on how best to frame the request to the newspapers… and say it’s time to withdraw. I will always be enormously grateful to him.”
Changes to the PCC code of practice on paparazzi, harassment and intrusion into grief following the death of Princess Diana in 1997 were “very largely down to the meticulous work of Stuart,” Lord Black said.
He concluded his evidence by saying:
“He is in many ways the reporter’s reporter. He’s intrepid in the pursuit of the truth. He is always immensely professional. He would never play fast and loose with the rules.”
Mr Kuttner, managing editor of the NoW for 22 years, denies conspiring to intercept phone communications between 2000 and 2006. The trial continues.
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Reblogged this on David Hencke and commented:
A strong defence of Stuart Kuttner from Guy Black, the Conservative peer, and former director of the Press Complaints Commission.