Did the Mirror Group hack phones before News of the World? Shareholders force investigation as shares fall 10%

 

Trinity Mirror boss Simon Fox today caved in to demands from major shareholders for an investigation into allegations that the company's national titles were involved in phone hacking.

An in-house Mirror Group inquiry, likely to be more limited than the “management standards” review inside News International which led to a flood a new disclosures about illegal activities inside the News of the World, may further damage the company’s share price.

Trinity Mirror shares fell 10 per cent following yesterday's revelations that four people, including the former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, have begun legal action against its tabloid titles, including the Daily Mirror, claiming that journalists used illegal interceptions techniques to access their private telephone voicemail messages.

According to company sources, some of the leading institutional shareholders believed that only a full investigation would give them the information they need as to how deep the allegations reach into Mirror titles’ recent history.

Yesterday The Independent website revealed that Scotland Yard are holding evidence that a senior Mirror Group executive regularly paid a private investigations firm up to £125 a time for mobile phone numbers and private pin access codes at least two years before phone hacking became a routine practice at the News of the World.

Invoices for the service that have been shown to The Independent, name the news executive but today the former Mirror employee – who cannot be identified for legal reasons - said he could not discuss the significance of evidence held by the Metropolitan  Police. He said: “All of this should be referred to Trinity Mirror.”

The claims filed at the High Court, which allege “breach of confidence and misuse of private information” relating to illegal mobile phone voicemail interceptions, is the first significant expansion of phone hacking in the UK beyond Rupert Murdoch’s News International titles.

The three other claimants are the Coronation street actress, Shobna Gulati, the former nanny of star footballer David Bekham, Abbie Gibson, and the former captain of Blackburn Rovers, Garry Flitcroft.

The regimes of three Trinity Mirror editors are implicated in the claims, including Piers Morgan who edited the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004 and was in charge of the title when it revealed the affair between Mr Eriksson and broadcaster Ulrika Jonsson in a story that is at the centre of the football manager’s complaint. Mr Morgan, now a star interviewer on the US news channel CNN, has repeatedly said he has no knowledge of phone hacking happening during his editorship.

Last night the lawyer representing the new claimants, Mark Lewis, said that since the news broke of the allegations against the Mirror titles, others had contacted him. “They have raised issues that I will now have to look into,” he said. 

Trinity Mirror has consistently tried to distance itself from illegal practices that were adopted inside titles run by Rupert Murdoch’s UK print operation.  Yesterday the company repeated assurances given to the Leveson Inquiry earlier this year by its former chief executive, Sly Bailey, stating that “all” its journalists worked  “within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission Code of Conduct.”

However a former Trinity Mirror journalist who today spoke to The Independent on condition of anonymity, repeated the allegations given to the Leveson Inquiry last year by the Mirror’s former business writer, James Hipwell, who claimed he had personally been shown “how to hack” by the paper’s showbusiness team.

The former journalist, building on Mr Hipwell’s account, said staff were bullied into hacking, that it was common knowledge and that voicemail interceptions took place from the 1990s to well into the 2000s.

The Independent was told “It started off as a cult activity by showbiz reporters. It was a plentiful source of cheap diary stories, but then it became proven that it broke big stories, and the news people started to use it and the showbiz people started to get promoted into news – and they would insist it was used. It became standard practice.”

Backing up Mr Hipwell’s Leveson testimony, the source said they had first-hand knowledge of its use, knew people who “were at it” and that it was done openly in Trinity Mirror titles. They added: “It was done with authority. Political decisions [within the offices] were made that this was what people had to do – even if it was against their will.”

Alleging that senior Trinity Mirror management knew of the illegal practice, and were  involved in keeping it a secret, could, if proven, be financially damaging for the struggling publishing group.

Being part of the Murdoch-owned News Corp  has allowed News International to both mount a robust legal fight-back against phone hacking,  while at the same time bowing to the inevitable high-tariff damages that have arisen from scores of settled civil claims. That process is still on-going with NI’s final hacking bill now expected to soar past the £200 million mark.

Trinity Mirror are without such financial muscle.  Its share price has fallen 90 percent over the last five years, and at the close of last year was servicing debt of around £220 million.

Company insiders are now saying that Ms Bailey’s decision taken last year not to order an investigation along the lines of NI’s “management standards committee” (MSC) review, could now be reviewed. She explained her decision to Lord Justice Leveson saying that as there was no evidence Mirror Group journalists had hacked phone, there was no need to conduct an investigation.

In place of a detailed investigation, Paul Vickers, the company’s legal director, who is a former barrister, varied out a review of editorial controls and procedures. A company spokesman said Mr Vickers review “had no historical element to it, and simply examined existing practices.”

The spokesman said they would be making no comment on any evidence held by Scotland Yard, and as it had yet to receive any claims from Mark Lewis could add nothing more. 

Claimants: The alleged targets

Garry Flitcroft

The former Blackburn Rovers captain became the subject of tabloid interest in 2002 after claims of two extra-marital affairs. He obtained an injunction banning disclosure of his identity, subsequently overturned. Among papers which covered the story were The People and the Sunday Mirror.

Sven-Goran Eriksson

The revelation of an affair between the then England manager and television presenter Ulrika Jonsson was a defining exclusive of Piers Morgan’s editorship of the Daily Mirror. But Eriksson and Jonsson are known to have long wondered how their relationship came to light.

Shobna Gulati

The soap actor, who appeared in both Coronation Street and EastEnders, was the subject of articles in the Sunday Mirror between 2003 and 2005. She was granted core participant status in the Leveson Inquiry during its study of relations between police and newspapers.

Abbie Gibson

The former nanny to the Beckhams hit the headlines in 2005 when she began employment tribunal proceedings against them. The People ran a story wrongly alleging that David Beckham had left angry voicemails on Gibson’s phone. The paper later apologised for the story and paid damages.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players