Guido has – completely legally – obtained the raw data from the British Information Commissioner’s ‘Operation Motorman’ investigation. A number crunching analysis of the data shows that between 1997 and 2003 Mirror Group newspapers were invoiced 948 times by “JJ Services”, run by Steve Whittamore, a notorious blagger who specialised in illegally obtaining personal information. For that six year period the total value of the invoices amounted to £442,878.73.
Many of these invoices are addressed to MGN Ltd, publishers of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror. Nevertheless Guido has identified at least 65 invoices, totalling £20,333.31 which are directly to the Daily Mirror. These invoices are dated between 2001 and 2002. Piers Morgan was the Editor of the Mirror throughout this period.
On Desert Island Discs Morgan told Kirsty Young that, “Not a lot of that went on. A lot of it was done by third parties, rather than the staff themselves,” adding, “That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work.” Almost half-a-million quid suggests that quite a lot of that went on.
The “blagging” invoices are for phone records, vehicle registration records, ex-directory numbers, to monitor mobile calls, obtain phone bills and get numbers called as well as paying off bent police officers to provide information. It could be medical records, criminal records or tax records. Blagging is a criminal offence punishable with up to two years jail time. Kate Winslet was blagged and the information was used by Piers Morgan, as he admits in his 10 April 2000 diary entry in The Insider:
“I got back to the office to learn that Kate Winslet, having indicated she would come to our Pride of Britain awards tomorrow, is now saying she can’t. Someone had got hold of her mobile number — I never like to ask how — so I rang her …. ‘Hello,’ she said, sounding a bit taken aback. ‘How did you get my number? I’ve only just changed it. You’ve got to tell me, please, I am so worried now’ ”
“Never liking to ask” is what is known legally as “willful blindness” which is when an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting himself in a position where he will be unaware of facts which would render him liable. Or contrives to pretend such. It doesn’t work in Court because the law takes the view that it is criminally reckless to fail to find out. That in a nutshell is what Piers is, criminally reckless…