A former financial reporter at the Daily Mirror has told the Leveson Inquiry that phone hacking seemed to happen daily at the paper, and was “openly discussed”.
James Hipwell, who wrote the City Slickers column for the paper from 1998 before being jailed in 2006 for writing about firms he owned shares in, stood by his witness statement in which he said phone hacking was a “bog-standard journalistic tool”. He told the Inquiry the practice was openly discussed by the showbiz desk, recounting that the team had deleted a message from a celebrity’s voicemail to stop the rival paper, the Sun, intercepting and getting the story.
“It didn’t seem to me to be an ethical way to behave, but it seemed a generally accepted method to get a story,” Hipwell said.
He said he did not report the practice to former editor Piers Morgan because it seemed that it was “entirely accepted” by senior editors on the paper.” He said that, while he did not see hacking talked about in front of genuine management of the company, he witnessed it being discussed with senior editorial managers.
Hipwell also said he witnessed a colleague hacking into Morgan’s phone in early 2000, although he said he did not think it elicited any useful information.
Morgan told the Inquiry yesterday he had “no reason to believe” the practice was occurring at the tabloid while he was editor from 1995 to 2004.
In a witness statement to the Inquiry, Morgan said Hipwell’s claims were the “unsubstantiated allegations of a liar and convicted criminal.”
Hipwell said he could not prove Morgan knew about the practice, but added that “looking at his style of editorship, I would say it was unlikely he didn’t know it was going on.”
He said Morgan was the tabloid’s “beating heart” and “dear leader”. He described how Morgan would go up behind reporters and look at what they were writing on screen, and would re-write headlines and copy late at night after publication.
“The newspaper was built around the cult of Piers,” Hipwell said, noting that as editor he did his job “very well”.
Yesterday Morgan told the Inquiry editors only knew 5% of what their reporters were doing, and that he only “very occasionally” asked reporters about the sources of their stories.
Yet, Hipwell said, “nothing really happened on that [showbiz] desk without Piers knowing about it.”
Hipwell also contradicted Morgan’s statement that the PCC code was on the wall of Mirror newsroom. He told the Inquiry he was never briefed about the code or journalistic ethics, and that he did not see any visible signs of ethical leadership from the paper’s senior managers.
He said corporate governance was not a term used in the newspaper office.
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