Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 1680-1699)


21 JULY 2009

  Q1680  Adam Price: If we get the evidence you would be prepared to sit before the Committee again and respond to that?

  Mr Coulson: Let us see whether or not you get the evidence. I would be happy to listen to whatever request the Chairman has of me.

  Q1681  Adam Price: There were a further 200 attempts, from my reading of the evidence, by Mr Miskiw that the Information Commissioner graded as probably illicit. Looking at the round figures we have seen a price list for blagging under a previous Information Commissioner report. We must be talking about over £10,000 here over a three-year period. Mr Kuttner, would you have been aware of this level of use by a single journalist of a particular agency?

  Mr Kuttner: This level of use by a single journalist of a particular agency?

  Q1682  Adam Price: Yes, the cumulative amount.

  Mr Kuttner: Of which agency are we speaking at the moment?

  Q1683  Adam Price: Stephen Whittamore?

  Mr Kuttner: Right, I think I probably would be aware that journalist X or journalist Y was perhaps on behalf of himself or herself and other colleagues making enquiries of an agent, yes.

  Q1684  Adam Price: Did you not think to ask Mr Miskiw whether the information being formally requested was legal?

  Mr Kuttner: Well, I think that presupposes that I would have some reason to be suspicious and I did not.

  Q1685  Adam Price: Before this information came to light you have never come across cases in the past where journalists on the News of the World have tried to obtain information illegally or from sources that tried to obtain illegal information? It has never occurred to you before that this could happen?

  Mr Kuttner: No, it has not and I have to say to you that bearing in mind the requirements of their contracts before the clauses were strengthened, bearing in mind the number of times that various editors have asked that we be sure that people follow the PCC Code, as I think I said earlier, the events of the day that the police came and Clive Goodman was arrested are seared into my brain. It was a traumatic event and I cannot state too strongly how alarming that was, and "surprising" is not even an adequate term.

  Q1686  Adam Price: In 2002 it emerged as a result of covert police surveillance that a News of the World journalist had been paying thousands of pounds to a detective agency, Southern Investigations, for information obtained illegally from corrupt police officers. Were you aware of those payments, Mr Kuttner?

  Mr Kuttner: Am not specifically aware of those, no. I would need some prompting. How long ago did you say that was?

  Q1687  Adam Price: Well, the events stem from 1998 but it emerged in 2002.

  Mr Kuttner: So 11 years ago and seven years ago, I would need some prompting and I will try and help you if you could provide it.

  Q1688  Adam Price: You yourself I think, Mr Coulson, when you appeared last time before the Committee six years ago, along with Rebekah Wade, did admit that the News of the World did pay police officers for information. Is that correct?

  Mr Coulson: Did I? I do not think I did.

  Q1689  Adam Price: That amounts to misconduct in public office.

  Mr Coulson: I am not being facetious here but if I did I would like to be told and have the quote read to me because I do not think I did. I think what I said is that the only circumstances under which—and please correct me if I am wrong here—a payment to a policeman could be condoned was if there was a legitimate public interest. I think that is what I said but it was a long time ago and you will have to remind me.

  Q1690  Adam Price: That still amounts to misconduct in public office. You are essentially corrupting a police officer.

  Mr Coulson: I was making the point, as I recollect, that there is no excuse for illegality unless there is a clear public interest.

  Q1691  Adam Price: Corrupting a serving police officer is always illegal. There is no justification for it.

  Mr Coulson: I am not disputing that but I did not say, as I think you said at the start—and again my apologies if I am wrong about this—that I had knowledge of any policeman being paid, because I do not.

  Q1692  Adam Price: So as far as you were aware the News of the World while you were Editor or Deputy Editor never paid a serving police officer for information?

  Mr Coulson: Not to my knowledge.

  Q1693  Adam Price: No journalist on the News of the World?

  Mr Coulson: No.

  Q1694  Adam Price: Going back to the payments to Glenn Mulcaire through Clive Goodman that he received as Alexander, the code name or whatever that was used. These were weekly instalments, were they, Mr Kuttner?

  Mr Kuttner: I am not sure at this distance whether there was a strict pattern but I do think they were on the whole weekly, yes. That is my recollection.

  Q1695  Adam Price: Presumably at some point you would have asked for some evidence that these were useful stories and they were actually appearing in the paper?

  Mr Kuttner: Yes I did from time to time.

  Q1696  Adam Price: So some of the stories that emerged through Alexander (that we now know as Glenn Mulcaire operating under subterfuge) did appear in the paper?

  Mr Kuttner: I believe that is right.

  Q1697  Adam Price: Could we have a list of the stories that appeared in the paper through this route that came in through Alexander, aka Glenn Mulcaire, paid for by the £12,400 additional payment?

  Mr Kuttner: All I can say, sir, is that I will do my best to see if it is possible to research that.

  Q1698  Adam Price: Okay. You said as well, Mr Kuttner, that you would make enquiries as to who would know who has made the payments to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. When you have made those enquiries presumably you would be happy to report back to the Committee?

  Mr Kuttner: What I have undertaken to do is to make enquiries as to who handled the arrangements or agreements with Glenn Mulcaire or Clive Goodman.

  Q1699  Adam Price: Do you know at this stage whether there were any conditions attached to those payments, particularly a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement?

  Mr Kuttner: No, I do not know.

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