In his closing speech, Jonathan Caplan QC denied the prosecution’s claim that Mr Kuttner had “cooked the books” to avoid alerting News International’s executives to the £105,000-a-year paid to hacker Glenn Mulcaire.
He said Mr Kuttner had stated the full annual contract for Mulcaire’s companies in his budget proposals – which were circulated to the finance department.
When in April 2002 Mr Kuttner alerted Surrey Police to the NoW’s possession of voicemail messages left for Milly Dowler he was seeking to assist their inquiry into the missing 13-year-old, Mr Caplan told the jury.
If Mr Kuttner had thought there was anything “sinister” about the News of the World having the voicemails, he would not have told the police about them, he added.
He told the jury: “The news desk and Mulcaire were operating a very tight cell. They were not telling the full position to the Managing Editor’s office.”
Mr Caplan said there were six points which the prosecution claimed proved Mr Kuttner’s guilt: he “must have known” about hacking; his department signed off Mulcaire’s weekly payments; he “cooked the books” to disguise those payments; he was aware of the hacking of Milly Dowler; he authorised reporter Clive Goodman’s £500-a-week “Alexander Project” payments to Mulcaire; he participated in a cover-up after Mr Goodman’s arrest; and could not remember much about his time at the News of the World.
Mr Caplan said: “These points are either completely without foundation, or they represent a statement of fact that proves actually nothing – or which is equally consistent with absolute innocence.”
Mr Kuttner had never sought to hide the Mulcaire contract (which the newsdesk had signed) because he had mentioned the annual figure during the budget discussions, when he wanted to cut the contract, Mr Caplan said.
He added Mr Kuttner was obliged to pay the weekly amount to Mulcaire because it was legally owed to him.
On Milly Dowler, Mr Caplan said: “Someone at the News of the World had got her number and in the context of that story had accessed her voicemails. If Mr Kuttner had any sinister impression about what was going on, he surely wouldn’t have rung up the police and told them what was happening.”
He said it was “likely” that Mr Kuttner had believed what Neville Thurlbeck had told him: that he had got Milly’s phone details from a school friend.
Mr Caplan told the jury: “He had no idea that Mulcaire had hacked her phone; or that Mulcaire on behalf of the newsdesk was systematically hacking other phones.”
He said that Mr Kuttner had no reason to think that Mr Goodman’s royal source “Alexander” was Mulcaire.
As to when Mr Kuttner visited Mr Goodman at his home on 10 August 2006, two days after his arrest, he was “throwing his arm around” a member of staff in difficulty.
Mr Caplan said: “It’s a managing editor going to see a colleague in trouble and, obviously, he would be failing in his duty if he did not find out what was going on and what the police were doing in the News of the World on 8 August. That would be obvious – and nothing wrong with it.”
When Mr Kuttner was arrested by the police in August 2011, he had not “prevaricated and blustered”, as the prosecution had suggested, but had tried to answer questions about the Dowler story, even though it had happened nine years previously.
Mr Kuttner, the QC said, was a retired and “infirm” man in his seventies who had suffered a brain stem stroke.
He suggested that the Crown Prosecution Service should have had more important targets to go after. Stressing public money was tight, Mr Caplan said: “The impression in this case has been that no resource has been spared by the Crown Prosecution Service or the police in investigating this case – and propelling it here as a high-profile prosecution.”
Referring to the glass wall of the dock, he added: “In these courts, they’re mostly used to dealing with murder or terrorism or other cases of that kind.”
There were no dangerous people in the dock of Court 12, he said.
He told the jury Mr Kuttner was a journalist of more than 50 years’ standing: “He is somebody who’s imbued with the ethics of journalism,” Mr Caplan said, listing Mr Kuttner’s qualities as: “Integrity, transparency, reality, care of other human beings, and professionalism.
He told the jury: “We don’t want your sympathy, but we do want you to try this case on the evidence. Ten or even 20 times zero still equals zero.”
He told the eight women and three men: “Mr Kuttner came from a school of journalism where you knocked on doors… He may be guilty of something, [being] too trusting of the newsdesk or Mr Goodman – but that’s not a crime.”
Mr Kuttner, who retired as managing editor in 2009, and the other six defendants deny all the charges.
Trevor Burke QC, for Rebekah Brooks’ PA, Cheryl Carter, is due to make his closing speech on Monday.