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EDITIONS
Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Stuart Kuttner, Managing Editor, News of the World
Stuart Kuttner, Managing Editor, News of the World
Stuart Kuttner, Managing Editor, News of the World
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST
HOSTED BY FERGAL KEANE
INTERVIEW:
STUART KUTTNER
, MANAGING EDITOR, NEWS OF THE WORLD
AUGUST 11TH, 2002

FERGAL KEANE:
Now today as every day in the last week, the girls' disappearance has dominated the front pages. Some of the tabloid newspapers are even offering huge rewards for information. It's not the first time newspapers have blurred the edges between reporting and making the news. The Sunday paper the News of the World not only offered a reward for news about Sarah Payne's abduction but it started a vigorous campaign to bet the Government to consider introducing Sarah's law, which would give parents controlled access to the whereabouts of paedophiles. But when newspapers intervene, isn't it just a cynical, money-making ploy designed to boost sales. Managing editor of the News of the World, Stuart Kuttner joins me now. Stuart, at least one policeman involved in this latest investigation says this is, this idea of offering rewards - 150,000 in the case of your own newspaper - it's just about shifting newspapers.

STUART KUTTNER:
Well, I think the policeman who said that is un-named. The policeman who counts is Detective-Superintendent David Hankins and he publicly, several times this week, in my presence when I was at Soham one day, welcomed the reward offers from newspapers, The Sun and the News of the World's combined offer, and he said how grateful the parents of both Holly and Jessica were at this direct reward support from the media.

FERGAL KEANE:
Has anybody ever taken you up on one of your rewards?

STUART KUTTNER:
They have - and I was about to say unhappily, but the truth is we paid out willingly. I think the largest payment we ever made was 175,000 and that was in the case of the arrest and conviction of a man called Michael Sands for the kidnap and the abduction of a woman called Stephanie Slater in the Midlands. He'd also, as it happened, murdered a young girl as well. So we paid out in the case and we paid out more recently, I think 5,000, when a murder was solved down in Surrey where a woman had been cut up and left in the fields, we printed a reward offer in the News of the World, a taxi driver came forward and said I saw something suspicious one night and as a result a man was convicted, sent to prison and we paid out on that occasion.

FERGAL KEANE:
I have to put it to you that a lot of people watching this, and seeing the kind of coverage you give it, introducing money and rewards, must come away feeling there's just something unclean, something - how shall I put it - exploitative about what you are doing.

STUART KUTTNER:
I don't believe that at all. For a start my newspaper, the News of the World has, you know, stood for and fought for the rights of children -

FERGAL KEANE:
But this is good for circulation.

STUART KUTTNER:
It does nothing - Fergal, it does nothing for circulation at all. My newspaper -

FERGAL KEANE:
Absolutely, no - it plays no part in your thinking, does it?

STUART KUTTNER:
It is no part whatsoever, it does nothing for circulation. In fact there are many other stories we could print in the paper which would do a great more for circulation. We think it's part, if you like, of a sort of broad public duty - the important thing is that before we do, before the News of the World and before most papers do these things, that we talk to the police involved and we make sure that they are satisfied that it will be a helpful adjunct to their activities, and if there's a family involved, as in this case, the families of Jessica and Holly, we make sure directly, or through the police, that again the reward offer is welcomed, otherwise no such offer is put forward.

FERGAL KEANE:
But yours is a newspaper which has traditionally thrived on stories of sex, sexual misbehaviour, and isn't there a view that this, you know, your sanctimoniousness, if I may put it that way, on issues like this doesn't sit very well with the kind of record, with the kind of background your newspaper has.

STUART KUTTNER:
Well I disagree completely with that, and I would also ask I mean what contribution, if you like, other than simply reporting day by day the activities of the police search for the girls, what kind of contribution, if you like the people who are denigrating us, the BBC in particular -

FERGAL KEANE:
No I'm not denigrating you at all, I'm simply putting points of view, which I suspect many people would want to put to you.

STUART KUTTNER:
Well I'm not sure that many would, I mean the reality is, as I say, and I'll repeat, the reward offer of 150,000 has been welcomed by, encouraged and welcomed and it was not made, I can tell you this, it was not made without making absolutely sure the police wanted it to happen. And similarly in other cases we always talk to the police in charge.

FERGAL KEANE:
Now you've campaigned, and I suspect you're campaigning will have been given greater impetus by this new case, for the introduction of Sarah's law. Spell out to us exactly what that is.

STUART KUTTNER:
Well in essence when little Sarah, eight year old Sarah Payne was abducted and murdered in July of 2000, by a known local paedophile with a terrible record for a similar crime which fortunately in that case didn't end in murder, we set about, if you like, campaigning for some changes in the law that would tighten up the law against paedophiles, against predatory, repetitive child sex abusers.

FERGAL KEANE:
And specifically, just spell out how it should work.

STUART KUTTNER:
Well what we've achieved so far and the core - I'll come on to the core in a second - but what we've achieved so far is that sex offenders, once they're released from prison, must sign on to the sex offenders' register within 72 hours, if they don't they face prison sentences of up to five years, instead of six months. There are a number of other factors and most importantly - and this is coming now, this is coming this year - a dangerous sex offender who may, who may indeed offend again, who may abuse and molest children again, can now or will now be able to face the possibility of life in prison. It will be a indeterminate sentence. This has been promised to us by David Blunkett and we will see it before the end of this year.

FERGAL KEANE:
But we are told by most agencies involved in this that the vast majority of abuse, sexual and physical abuse, takes place within families. Now in campaigning for something like this and in filling your front pages and your inside pages with stories about paedophiles out in the community, aren't you, a) distracting from where the real problem is taking place and b) scaremongering?

STUART KUTTNER:
Well I don't think we're distracting one bit and I don't think, if you like, the nature of the relationship of the offender makes much difference to the, you know, to the child who is the victim of it.

FERGAL KEANE:
Yes but if the police are looking the wrong way, or if society is looking the wrong way, if it's happening within the family, you're encouraging people away from where the problem is.

STUART KUTTNER:
Unfortunately Roy Whiting, who seized and abducted little Sarah Payne, playing in a cornfield on a summer Saturday evening with her brothers and sister, is not untypical of these people. Now we'll hope and we'll pray that in the case of Jessica and Holly in Cambridgeshire that maybe, you know, they are still alive, still safe somewhere - that would be wonderful news. But as time goes by, the likelihood of them having been picked up by, if you like, a Cambridgeshire version of Roy Whiting would seem to increase, and that is what we're fighting about.

FERGAL KEANE:
Well we'll all pray and hope that doesn't happen. Stuart Kuttner, thank you very much.


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