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Who will the PCC question at NOTW if it re-opens investigation into phone hacking?

July 9th, 2009Posted by in Journalism, Legal

Will the PCC question News of the World’s Stuart Kuttner, who yesterday stepped down as the paper’s managing director, if it re-opens the investigation into phone hacking?

[Update 10.07.09: News International said the ‘departure of managing editor Stuart Kuttner has no connection whatsoever’ with events referred to in a statement]

In evidence given to the House of Commons culture select committee in April, Nick Davies criticised the PCC for failing to hold the News of the World to account on charges of phone hacking:

Mr Davies: If you say to [Andy] Coulson, “Come and give evidence even though you are no longer an editor” and if he says, “No” then that is an interesting tactical failure on his part. It is not just the editor of the paper; what about the managing editor? Why not call Stuart Kuttner, the managing editor of the News of the World, who has been there for years and who has a special responsibility for contracts and money? Why not call him to give evidence? There was a real will on the part of the PCC to avoid uncovering the truth about phone hacking.”

The PCC is now looking at the case again in light of Nick Davies’ exclusive report for the Guardian and could re-open the investigation. So who will they question?

Stuart Kuttner, as Davies suggested? “Kuttner will remain at the News of the World part time to work on special projects for the tabloid, including its Sarah’s Law campaign,” the Guardian reported yesterday.

The PCC decided not to question former News of the World editor Andy Coulson (as we write, he is still the Conservative Party’s communications director) for its 2007 inquiry, citing that he was not longer ‘answerable to the PCC’.  But would they question Kuttner, in his new part-time role?

In 2007 the PCC stated in its report on subterfuge and newsgathering:

“Despite Mr Myler’s [new News of the World editor] appointment, the question arose whether the PCC should ask Mr Coulson to give an account of what had gone wrong. The PCC decided not to do so. Given that the PCC does not – and should not – have statutory powers of investigation and prosecution, there could be no question of trying to duplicate the lengthy police investigation. Furthermore, Mr Coulson was, following his resignation, no longer answerable to the PCC, whose jurisdiction covers journalists working for publications that subscribe to the self-regulatory system through the Press Standards Board of Finance.

“As a result, that part of the investigation involving the News of the World was conducted by the Director of the PCC with Mr Myler.  The Chairman of the Commission also discussed the matter on a number of occasions with the Chief Executive of News International, Mr Les Hinton.”

The PCC stated today:

“Any suggestion that further transgressions have occurred since its report was published in 2007 will be investigated without delay. In the meantime, the PCC is contacting the Guardian newspaper and the Information Commissioner for any further specific information in relation to the claims, published today about the older cases, which suggest the Commission has been misled at any stage of its inquiries into these matters.”

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