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Piers Morgan denies presiding over phone hacking at Daily Mirror

Morgan said he was only aware of “about five per cent” of what his reporters were doing while he was editor.

Morgan giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry via videolink
Morgan giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry via videolink
Image: Screen grab

FORMER DAILY MIRROR and News of the World editor Piers Morgan has denied any knowledge of phone hacking during his time at the newspapers.

Morgan, now the presenter of chat show Piers Morgan Tonight and a judge on America’s Got Talent, said he did not believe journalists at the papers had listened to public figures’ voicemails, and that he had never done so himself.

Asked about a 2007 interview in which he suggested that most people on Fleet Street knew phone hacking had going been on “for years”, Morgan said: “I was just passing on rumours that I’d heard.”

Speaking via videolink to the UK’s Leveson Inquiry on media ethics, he denied that any of the rumours had referred to his time at the Daily Mirror until 2004.

However, he acknowledged a segment in his book, dated January 2001, in which he described being told about the “little trick” of hacking into voicemail messages.

Asked about alleged payments of several thousand pounds from the Daily Mirror to private investigator Steve Whittamore during his time as editor, he said that any such sums would have been under the control of the managing editor or desk editors.

“I would say the average editor is aware of about five per cent of what his journalists were up to at any given time,” he said.

Morgan also said that he would “not usually” ask reporters for the sources of their stories. He insisted that journalists were “obliged under their contracts of employment to work within the law”, and he “never had any concerns that they were breaking the law”.

Morgan – who edited the News of the World from 1994 to 1995, and the Daily Mirror from 1996 to 2004 – was also questioned about a previous statement that he had been “played a tape of a message Paul McCartney left on Heather Mills’ phone”. He refused to identify the person who played it to him, saying this would compromise a source.

Asked whether the Daily Mirror had ever illegally paid police officers, Morgan said: “I’ve never been made aware of any evidence of that at all.”

Morgan also rejected suggestions that he had acted unethically by paying a source who went through celebrities’ bins to find stories.

More: Full coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on TheJournal.ie>

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Michael Freeman

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