Piers Morgan told CNN on Wednesday: “For the record, in my time at The Mirror and the News of the World, I have never hacked a phone, told anybody to hack a phone or published any story based on the hacking of a phone.” That’s not what one former Daily Mirror journalist who worked for him says though.
“Many of the Daily Mirror’s stories would come from hacking into a celebrity’s voicemail,” James Hipwell said of his time at the Mirror between 1998 and his sacking in early 2000. Morgan was editor from 1995 to 2004. Hipwell was jailed in 2006 for his part in the City Slicker Viglen share tipping scandal. Despite Morgan buying £67,000 worth of shares in Viglen the day before Hipwell tipped them in the Mirror’s finance column, the editor got away with it.
Talking to the Guardian in 2006, Hipwell added that targets for voicemail hacking during his period at the Mirror had included the Spice Girls. On one occasion a fellow Mirror journalist even deleted a voicemail message from one of the Spice Girls’ phones to stop his rival on the Sun getting hold of it. Hipwell also confirmed that the Mirror found out about Ulrika Jonsson’s affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson from a voicemail left by the then England coach on the TV presenter’s phone, something Guido covered in some depth last week.
While Hipwell and fellow City Slicker journalist Anil Bhoyrul were under fire for writing about the shares in which they had invested, a sympathetic colleague had hacked into Morgan’s voicemail in an attempt to track down any messages from Mirror executives. Morgan confirmed this incident in GQ just five months ago:
“It was pretty well-known that if you didn’t change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages. That is not, to me, as serious as planting a bug in someone’s house, which is what some people seem to think was going on.
…loads of newspaper journalists were doing it. Clive Goodman, the NOTW reporter, has been made the scapegoat for a very widespread practice… Not defending him, just expressing sympathy for someone who has been made a scapegoat.
…they used to do it to me. And no, I didn’t like it. But with new technology comes new temptation and new issues.”
Hipwell also mentioned to the Guardian that he was planning a still unpublished book, and had already written four chapters of it, describing the lengths to which the Mirror, when edited by Piers Morgan, went to get stories:
“It details many examples – dozens in fact – of celebrity phone taps… This has been going on for years.”
Guido thinks we have found another prime candidate to testify, under oath, at Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry…
Guido is going to be very blunt about this, Piers Morgan is a bare-faced liar. It will come out in the course of the inquiries that hacking was rife at the Mirror during his time as editor. It will not be in doubt that stories were published based on information obtained by hacking – Piers will definitely be caught out on that one. Morgan is betting that no one will testify that he knew and no invoices or otherwise will be produced in evidence. Exactly the calculation Andy Coulson made. Ask yourself this: Do you believe Piers Morgan, knowing all about how to hack celebrity’s phones, told his staff not to hack phones, refused to run stories based on phone hacks and never asked from where the stories came?
Hat-tip to the eagle eyed Neal Mann of Sky News for spotting the GQ article.