Stuart Kuttner's arrest: a statement of intent from a humbled Met

It is impossible to overplay the importance of the managing editor of the News of the World for 22 years

Stuart Kuttner's arrest – leading to hours of questioning before he was bailed – demonstrates the determination of the now humbled Metropolitan police to comprehensively investigate the phone-hacking affair. The move against the former veteran managing editor of the News of the World may well come as no great surprise to those following the saga – not least because people who were both above him (former editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson) and below him (ex-news editors Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup) have all been arrested already.

But it is impossible to underplay the importance of the managing editor of the Sunday tabloid for 22 years; a man whose job it would have been to deal with budgets and any staffing and personnel issues under a succession of editors. His arrest is a clear statement that the Operation Weeting team, led by the deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, intend to be thorough.

News International did its best to appear uninterested on Tuesday – with insiders arguing that Kuttner was no more than an "ex-employee" – as the Rupert Murdoch company tries to ruthlessly distance itself from its chequered past. The company also believes that it is now increasingly on top of the ongoing criminal inquiry, in that it is aware of what information has been handed over to the Weeting team.

But that thinking also depends on the notion that there are no other sources of revelations – and it is far from certain how individuals under arrest, or even just pressure, will behave.

A sign of what may be to come can be seen in the conflict between James Murdoch and News of the World's last editor, Colin Myler, and the title's former chief lawyer Tom Crone, none of whom have been arrested.

Anxious to protect their reputation, Myler and Crone accused the junior Murdoch of providing misleading evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee last month.

On Tuesday, the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal looked like it was hitting back, with a page 7 report in its European edition which said that in 2000 the Sunday Mirror was involved in paying a police officer £50 in exchange for information about the arrest of Tim Blackstone, a PR professional, who was the brother of a Labour peer. High up, in the third paragraph of the already prominent report, the Journal noted that the editor of the Sunday Mirror at the time was Myler, who was also pictured in the title.

The stakes for Murdoch, Myler and Crone are considerable, but for those who have been arrested, they are clearly higher still.

News International may hope it can control the outcome now that so many key figures have left the company, but it is far from clear how the police investigation will develop, or where indeed it will ultimately end up.


Dan Sabbagh

The GuardianTramp

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