Trinity Mirror Plc, publisher of the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror tabloids in Britain, was sued over claims journalists hacked phones to get stories, the first time such civil litigation has spread beyond News Corp.
The lawsuits were filed yesterday in London, Mark Lewis, who’s representing alleged victims including former England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and actor Shobna Gulati, said in an e-mail. The cases are the first against a publisher other than News Corp.’s U.K. unit, where the News of the World tabloid was closed last year by Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Piers Morgan, who edited the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004 and now hosts CNN’s “Tonight” program, told an ethics inquiry triggered by the News Corp. scandal that phone hacking didn’t take place at the newspaper while he was there. A former Daily Mirror reporter later testified to the same inquiry that hacking took place on a daily basis among the newspaper’s show-business reporters.
Trinity Mirror is being pulled into the litigation as New York-based News Corp. seeks to resolve more than 150 civil lawsuits by victims, who are preparing for the first group trial, scheduled for June 11. News Corp. has paid more than $315 million in legal fees, civil settlements with an earlier group of victims, and the cost of shutting the News of the World.
Trinity Mirror spokesman Rich Ellis said the company wasn’t aware of the lawsuits. The company said in a statement that its journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct.
Trinity Mirror dropped as much as 13 percent to 62.25 pence in London trading today and was down 9.8 percent as of 11:43 a.m. The stock gained 49 percent this year through yesterday.
Lewis has represented some of News Corp.’s highest-profile victims, including the family of murdered school girl Milly Dowler, whose phone messages were hacked to get stories when she was missing in 2002. Murdoch closed the 168-year-old News of the World after it was reported in July 2011 that Dowler’s messages were intercepted, and prosecutors allege the title targeted at least 600 people.
James Hipwell, the Daily Mirror’s former “City Slicker” columnist who went to jail for using market manipulation, told the ethics inquiry in December that hacking took place when Morgan was editor. Heather Mills, the former wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, also told the inquiry the title may have hacked her phone.
Morgan worked more than a year at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, where the phone-hacking scandal began, and five years at the company’s Sun newspaper.
News Corp.’s hacking scandal triggered a tabloid bribery investigation by police, who arrested dozens of journalists for paying public officials for stories. Trinity Mirror was also drawn into that investigation in July when one current and one former journalist were arrested.