News of the World ‘a force for good’, Payne tells hacking trial

The mother of murdered Sarah Payne gave evidence in the phone hacking trial and said the News of the World had been a “force for good”.

Sara Payne said former editor Rebekah Brooks and retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner had lent their personal support after her daughter, 8, was abducted and murdered in 2000.

She told jurors at the Old Bailey how Brooks was at the “forefront” of the long-running Sarah’s Law campaign to protect other children from predatory paedophiles in the future.

With the aid of a walking stick, Mrs Payne stepped up with difficulty into the witness box as Brooks and Kuttner smiled at her from the dock.

She told jurors: “It’s easy to forget in these dark times the NotW has often been a force for good and it has something to do with the people who worked on it.”

She added: “I do not pretend they are perfect or always got things right.”

But she told jurors that Kuttner was a “gentleman” and Brooks was “really sweet”.

She told how they worked “as a team” on Sarah’s Law, sharing their research.

She said: “I did not sleep. I could call at two o’clock in the morning and she would pick up the phone.”

Mrs Payne, who was called by Kuttner’s legal team as a character witness, said: “Stuart is a gentleman. He is everything my parents taught me about being a gentleman and having manners. He is a good guy.”

She said he helped steer her through the newspaper industry and meeting politicians as part of the campaign.

Brooks, 45 and Kuttner, 74, and all their co-defendants deny the charges against them.

Kuttner’s legal team also called former director of the Press Complaints Commission Lord Black as a character witness. He told the court Kuttner was a man he turned to for help during his time in the role between 1993 and 2003 and he “never did let me down”.

After the Omagh bombing, he said Kuttner and the NotW “led the way” for the media to leave the scene, allowing the community to “grieve and to heal”.

He acted the same after the Dunblane tragedy, he said.

He also helped “deliver real change” in the media in the wake of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, Lord Black said.

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