Published on 20 Dec 2011 Sections

Morgan ‘did not listen to phone hack messages’

The Leveson inquiry into press ethics hears from former News of the World and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who denies listening to “illegally obtained voice messages”.

Piers Morgan (R)

Piers Morgan was questioned by the lawyers at the Leveson inquiry on what he knew about alleged phone hacking at the newspapers he worked at. Mr Morgan was the youngest ever editor at the News of the World when he took the helm in 1994, aged 28. He went on to edit the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004.

Counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC asked Mr Morgan if he had listened to “illegally obtained voice messages?”. “I do not believe so, no,” said Mr Morgan.

Robert Jay pressed Mr Morgan on the issue of phone hacking, pointing out that he mentions it in his book, The Insider – The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade. Under a diary entry for 26 January 2001, he wrote: “Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages.”

Mr Morgan said he couldn’t remember who told him about this “little trick” because it was too long ago.

Jay put it to him that the Daily Mirror was “top of the list of offenders” but Mr Morgan denied this, saying: “You also well know that not a single person has made a formal complaint against a Daily Mirror journalist, so why would you say that?”

He said he was unaware of any phone hacking going on at the Daily Mirror under his leadership, telling the inquiry: “To the best of my recollection I do not believe so.”

The evidence of another journalist, James Hipwell, was mentioned. Mr Hipwell is a former business journalist who is due to give evidence at the inquiry later this week. He says he witnessed Mirror journalists carrying out repeated privacy invasions.

But Mr Morgan said this was not something he knew about, and he had no reason or knowledge to believe it was going on. He said he would “not usually” ask journalists about the sources of their information.

Questioned about the use of private investigators at the Daily Mirror, Piers Morgan said: “I was never directly involved. This was dealt with through the news desk or the features desk so like most editors you just would not get directly involved. But certainly all journalists knew they had to operate within the law. That was enshrined in their contracts of employment.”

So far the inquiry has heard from the parents of missing Madeleine McCann, Steve Coogan and Alistair Campbell among others.

In this, the first part of the inquiry, Lord Justice Leveson is hearing evidence on the culture, ethics and practices of the press and it’s relationship with the police and politicians.