LONDON (Reuters) - A former Archbishop of Canterbury took to the witness stand in Britain’s phone-hacking trial on Thursday to tell a jury the ex-managing editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid was “a man I would trust”.
George Carey, the head of the Anglican church for 11 years until 2002, appeared as a character witness at London’s Old Bailey court and said Stuart Kuttner was a man of integrity.
Kuttner, 74, who was managing editor of the downmarket weekly tabloid for 22 years until 2009, is on trial with the paper’s former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson accused of conspiracy to intercept voicemails on mobile phones. They all deny the charges.
Brooks, Coulson and the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman, also face charges over illegal payments to public officials, which they deny.
Wearing a dark suit, mauve shirt and white clerical collar with a silver crucifix on a chain around his neck, Carey said he had become friends with Kuttner after writing a series of columns for the paper.
“I wouldn’t normally write for a paper like the News of the World,” he said. “I did so ... because Stuart is, and was, a very good man. He is a very penetrating journalist and I enjoyed working with him and learning something of the skill of writing for a local paper.”
Asked to summarize Kuttner’s character, Carey said: “A man I would trust. I would have no doubt about that.”
The court has previously heard that private detective Glenn Mulcaire, with whom Goodman was convicted of phone-hacking in 2007, was paid by the newspaper to intercept mobile phone voicemail messages of celebrities in the search for stories.
When asked by lead prosecutor Andrew Edis to explain the services Mulcaire was paid to provide, Kuttner said he was told they were typical of those performed by a private investigator.
“It now emerges, much to my distress, that he provided phone interception services,” he added.
Kuttner, whom the jury has been told is suffering from ill health, has been accused by prosecutors of authorizing weekly cash payments to Mulcaire of as much as 100,000 pounds ($167,000) a year.
He also instructed journalists to use false names to protect confidential sources, the court was told.
“Any suggestion whatsoever that I was a party to phone hacking activity ... is utterly without foundation,” Kuttner said. “I’ve spent a lifetime in journalism - hacking or intercepting voicemails is a technique that has never, ever, featured in my work.”
Coulson worked as British Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief after leaving the paper. He resigned in January 2011 due to escalating coverage of the phone-hacking scandal which led Murdoch to close the paper and sent shockwaves through the British establishment.
The trial continues.
Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Andrew Heavens