Former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner has said he is “deeply sorry” and “ashamed” for the fact phone-hacking that went on at his newspaper.
But Kuttner, 74, who was found not guilty this week when the phone-hacking trial concluded, denied the suggestion he had been “presiding over” the criminality.
He has also accused the state, Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service of a “stitch-up”.
Speaking to Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, he said: “I’ve lived with this frankly hideous nightmare for three years.
“The accusations unfounded, there was no substance to it, but I was obviously part of a group who were to be rounded up and to play a role in, I don’t know quite how to describe it, I think it is the state, through its legal arms – the Crown Prosecution Service, the Metropolitan Police force – chose to take on the press.
“And obviously I… deeply resent that. I resent it for my colleagues and I am inclined to use the term stitch-up. Because that’s at heart what I believe it was.”
Snow revealed in the pre-recorded interview that Kuttner had taken a call from Rupert Murdoch before it had started and the former managing editor confirmed he would be calling him back. Asked what he would be saying, Kuttner said: “You are immensely unlucky because I’m not going to [tell you].”
Challenged on why he did not wonder where murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemail had come from when he took it to police, he said his priority was to take it to the authorities and did not ask himself that question. Asked if he wondered where it had come from, he said: “At that moment, no I didn’t.”
He told Snow: “Please don’t try and usurp the function of a jury that sat for seven and a half almost eight months and heard detail and had documents containing millions and millions or words.
“They were happy that I had played no part in any criminal activity and I can tell you from my conscience if you like or from wherever you like neither did I.”
He added: “I am appalled by the phone interception, phone voicemail interception, that went on unknownst to me at the News of the World. I told the police I was appalled by it.
“Am I sorry? I am deeply sorry. More than sorry, I am ashamed that such went on among people working for that newspaper. I am sorry and I am ashamed. Now you’ve heard the word you wanted to hear.”
Asked if he was sorry for Andy Coulson, who was this week found guilty of plotting to hack phones, Kuttner said: “I am very sad for Andy Coulson and his family.”
Asked if Coulson had done wrong, he said: “Well the jury found him guilty, that’s the answer to that.” And asked whether he accepted Coulson was guilty, Kuttner said: “I don’t know.”
Snow also asked Kuttner whether Coulson was the man who set the News of the World’s “very, very distinct culture”. When Kuttner denied that any single editor had done this, Snow added: “It was Rupert Murdoch, wasn’t it? Let’s be candid – “
Kuttner said: “Yes, let’s be candid. Three or four people at an infinitely lower level than Rupert Murdoch have pleaded guilty.”
He added: “Clearly an editor influences the culture of a newspaper, but in terms of wrongdoing, of criminal activity, I frankly believe that this lay with the individuals themselves.
“Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I… personally trusted people where I should have been more cautious.”
Asked by Snow if he felt he had been “hung out to dry” by Murdoch, Kuttner said: “I’ve no reason to believe that whatsoever.”
Kuttner retired in 2009 after more than 20 years as News of the World managing editor.