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Daily Mail publisher to review procedures following hacking scandal

Meanwhile former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan is under increasing pressure to return home from the US, in the wake of hacking allegations by Heather Mills.

THE PUBLISHER OF Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper says it’s reviewing its editorial procedures following the phone hacking scandal.

Associated Newspapers Ltd. says that Liz Hartley, the company’s head of editorial legal services, would be among those working on the review.

The terse statement released this evening revealed few other details.

Meanwhile former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan faced calls today to return to the UK to explain what he knows about the  scandal, although the 46-year-old star didn’t seem in any hurry to go home.

The heat was turned up on Morgan when Heather Mills, the ex-wife of Paul McCartney, accused newspaper group Trinity Mirror PLC of accessing her voicemail messages. Morgan edited the company’s flagship Daily Mirror newspaper between 1995 and 2004.

Some lawmakers have called on Morgan to return to Britain to answer questions about the scandal, but his spokesman, Meghan McPartland, said he had no immediate plans to leave for Britain.

On his Twitter feed, Morgan made light of the situation, saying:

Mills’ allegation, made yesterday in an interview with the BBC, centers on a phone call she said she received from a senior Trinity Mirror journalist in 2001, before she and McCartney were married.

Word-for-word

In the call, the journalist referred to relationship problems she was having with the former Beatle. When Mills asked how he knew, she said the journalist quoted a voicemail left by McCartney on her phone word-for-word.

She said that when she then accused him of breaking into her phone and threatened to call the police, he admitted it and promised not to run a story on the couple’s fight.

Mills identified the journalist, although the BBC bleeped out the name, citing legal reasons. The BBC did say that the journalist was not Morgan.

Even though Morgan wasn’t the one named by Mills, her allegation echoes a claim he himself made back in 2006, a few months after the couple began divorce proceedings.

In an article published by the Daily Mail, Morgan said that he had been played a tape of a message McCartney had left on Mills’ cell phone in the wake of one of their fights.

“It was heartbreaking,” Morgan wrote. “He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang ‘We Can Work It Out’ into the answerphone.”

In a statement released yesterday Morgan described Mills’ allegation as unsubstantiated and noted that the judge in the couple’s divorce case had cast aspersions on her credibility. He has repeatedly denied having ever ordered anyone to spy on others’ voicemails.

Mills office today declined to elaborate on what she told the BBC, but said that the 43-year-old “looks forward to receiving Piers Morgan’s answer as to how he knew the content of her private voicemail messages.”

Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman also said Morgan had questions to answer over the extent of phone hacking within Britain’s media industry. The scandal exploded at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World — which the media tycoon has since shut — but lately titles published by the Trinity Mirror have come under scrutiny as well.

Harman said:

The public rightly expects that we will get to the bottom of phone hacking. That’s why it is so important that the police investigation looks at all the evidence and leaves no stone unturned.

John Whittingdale, chairman of Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee, which has examined Britain’s phone-hacking scandal, said Morgan should return to the U.K. to answer questions — although not from his panel of lawmakers, which famously grilled Rupert Murdoch and his son James last month.

He said the panel’s remit is focused only on allegations against the News of the World, but that a police inquiry into hacking may be interested to hear from Morgan. “Certainly if there is evidence implicating other newspapers then that needs to be part of that investigation,” Whittingdale told Sky News.

Conservative legislator Therese Coffey, a member of Whittingdale’s committee, also urged Morgan to return. “I think it would help everybody, including himself and this investigation, if he was able to say more about why he wrote what he did in 2006,” she told the BBC’s Newsnight program on Wednesday.

Listen: Piers Morgan drawn into hacking scandal after 2009 interview emerges>

- Additional reporting by AP

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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