‘Unlikely’ Piers Morgan did not know of hacking

IT was “very unlikely” that former editor Piers Morgan did not know about alleged phone hacking at the Daily Mirror, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

James Hipwell, a former financial reporter for the newspaper, told the investigation into press standards that “there wasn’t very much he didn’t know about”.

He also said that Mr Morgan’s phone had been hacked by a colleague.

In his evidence on Tuesday, Mr Morgan said he was unaware of any phone hacking at the Daily Mirror under his leadership and had “no reason” to believe that hacking was going on.

However Mr Hipwell, who was jailed for purchasing low-priced stocks and then recommending them to readers, told the inquiry today: “Looking at his style of editorship, I would say it was very unlikely that he didn’t know what was going on because, as I have said, there wasn’t very much he didn’t know about.

Mr Hipwell was given a six-month prison sentence in February 2006 for pocketing nearly £41,000. He mentioned the stocks in the Daily Mirror’s City Slickers column and then quickly sold them as values soared.

On the subject of phone hacking, Mr Hipwell said: “I would go as far as to say that it happened every day and it became apparent a great number of the Mirror’s showbusiness stories would come from that source. That is my clear memory.”

The witness said he heard one reporter claim they had deleted someone else’s voicemail message so that a Sun journalist could not listen to it as well.

Mr Hipwell, who worked at the newspaper between 1998 and 2000, said: “The openness and frequency of their hacking activities gave me the impression hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for getting information.”

Mr Hipwell told the inquiry the reporters believed hacking was acceptable as celebrities were “fair game”.

“I think it was seen as a slightly underhand thing to do but not illegal,” he said. “I don’t think the illegality of it was ever even considered. It just seemed to be fair game, fair play, any means to get a story.”

Mr Morgan was an “extremely hands-on” editor who demanded to know where every story had come from, Mr Hipwell went on.

“The newspaper was built around the cult of Piers,” he said.

“He wanted to know about the details of each story, especially if they were celebrity stories, and he wanted to know where they came from, how do we know, what’s the evidence?” he said.

Mr Hipwell said he had even seen another reporter — a “sympathetic colleague” — hack into Mr Morgan’s own phone during the time he himself was under fire for the City Slickers affair.

“I don’t think he clinched a great deal of information, but he certainly tried,” he said.

nalists between tabloids.

The inquiry was adjourned until January 9.

Coulson loses case

* Andy Coulson, former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World and once the British prime minister’s spokesman, has lost a case to force the tabloid’s publisher to pay his legal fees relating to phone-hacking charges.

Coulson was arrested in July on suspicion of corruption and trying to intercept communications, and could face charges early next year. He was editor of the NotW between 2003 and 2007.

News Corp unit News Group Newspapers, the publisher of the NotW, stopped paying his legal costs relating to criminal proceedings in August, on the grounds they were not incurred in the scope of his duties.

Earlier yesterday, News Group lost a similar case against Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator used by the NotW to hack phones, and will have to resume paying his fees as he defends himself against scores of civil claims.

Mulcaire went to jail in 2007 for illegally listening to telephone voice messages, along with Clive Goodman, former NotW royal reporter.

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