A former reporter at the Daily Mirror U.K. tabloid contradicted evidence given by CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan, saying that phone hacking took place on a daily basis at the newspaper’s show business desk.
James Hipwell, the former “City Slicker” columnist who went to jail for using stock tips to manipulate the market, told the British inquiry into press standards that phone hacking took place when Piers Morgan edited the newspaper.
“It seemed to be a generally accepted method to get a story,” Hipwell testified today. In the second half of 1999, “I’d go as far as to say it happened every single day.”
Piers Morgan, the host of CNN’s “Tonight” program and the editor of Trinity Mirror Plc (TNI)’s Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004, yesterday told the inquiry that he wasn’t involved with phone hacking when he oversaw the tabloid.
The British government set up the inquiry after revelations that journalists at News Corp.’s News of the World hacked into voice-mail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Rupert Murdoch’s company shut the Sunday tabloid and abandoned its bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc (BSY) in July after the practice was shown to be widespread.
Morgan was very close to the show business desk, Hipwell said. “It was very unlikely he didn’t know what was going on,” the former reporter said. “Nothing that really happened on that desk, happened without Piers knowing about it.”
Desmond Browne, a lawyer for Trinity Mirror, told the inquiry that Hipwell was “an acknowledged liar.” The company “does not accept” Hipwell’s testimony, he said. Rich Ellis, a spokesman for Trinity Mirror, declined to comment.
Hipwell was convicted in 2005 of creating a “misleading impression” about share values by encouraging readers to invest in companies he held stakes in.
The inquiry, led by Judge Brian Leveson, previously heard testimony that phone hacking may have extended to other tabloids, including News Corp. (NWSA)’s Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail & General Trust Plc’s Mail on Sunday. News Corp. has admitted liability in some cases, while the other publishers have denied the claims.
Paul McCartney’s former wife Heather Mills today said she never played Piers Morgan any voice mails after the inquiry was told that he had heard a recording of a phone message left by the ex-Beatle. Mills said she’d be happy to attend the inquiry, according to a statement on her website.
U.K. police plan to publish their account of how voice mails belonging to Milly Dowler were deleted when the inquiry reconvenes in January, the police’s lawyer Christina Michalos, said today. The police said last week that an investigator working for the News of the World didn’t erase messages.
The police are separately investigating phone hacking and bribes to law enforcement officers by journalists at the News of the World. A 52-year-old Metropolitan Police officer was arrested today as part of the probe.
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