Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#Leveson #PiersMorgan Admits To Listening To Tape Of Heather Mills Voicemail Messages

Former Daily Mirror and News of the World editor Piers Morgan admitted to the Leveson Inquiry that he listened to the tape of a celebrity couple’s voicemail.

Morgan, giving evidence via videolink from Los Angeles, admitted after some questioning from Robert Jay QC, the Inquiry counsel, that he was played a tape of a voicemail message exchange between Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney from the time of their divorce proceedings.

Morgan admitted listening to the tape, but refused to answer more questions as he wanted to protect the identity of his source.

Jay asked: “Have you listened to recordings of what you knew to be illegally obtained voicemail messages?”

Morgan replied he had not, but went on to admit he had listened to the tape containing Mills’ messages.

He said: “I can’t discuss where I was played that tape or who played it because to do so would be to compromise a source.”

When asked whether he thought that was unethical, Morgan said it didn’t “necessarily follow that listening to somebody speaking to somebody else is unethical”.

Lord Justice Leveson intervened and said he would be happy to call Mills as a witness, to verify whether she had authorised Morgan to listen to the messages.

The CNN presenter was also asked about allegations of the practice of phone hacking being widespread amongst showbiz reporters at the Daily Mirror, according to the written statement of former reporter James Hipwell, who will give evidence tomorrow.

Hipwell claimed phone hacking was so frequent it seemed like “bog-standard journalistic tool for gathering info”. Morgan denied knowledge of that.

Morgan said at the beginning of his evidence most editors only know about 5 per cent of what their reporters are up to.

He said “to the best of my recollection”, he didn’t believe phone hacking was taking place in the Daily Mirror before 2004 (when he was sacked from the paper).

He also said he took a “keen interest” on everything his reporters were doing.

Jay asked him about an array of practices in newspapers, including ‘tipping’. He mentioned an episode of Morgan’s career when he bought £67,000 in company shares in Viglen, one day before the story was published in the Daily Mirror.

There was a complaint made to the PCC and it was claimed Trinity Mirror knew he had bought £20,000 in shares before story was published. Morgan said he did not know who gave the wrong information to the PCC.

Tomorrow Leveson LJ will hear from James Hipwell, Nick Flagge, Padraig Flanagan, and David Pilditch. It will be the last day of the Inquiry in 2011.