Mirror hacking trial: Newspaper group could face criminal prosecution over phone hacking

Mirror Group Newspapers were described in court by their counsel at the civil trial involving eight claimants, as 'co-operating' and offering support in an 'on-going police inquiry'

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The Independent Online

Trinity Mirror is being investigated by Scotland Yard over its potential corporate involvement in phone hacking with three of its national titles “vulnerable to criminal prosecution”, the High Court has heard.

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) is a division of the UK publishing company responsible for the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People. They were described in court by their counsel, Matthew Nicklin QC, at the civil trial involving eight claimants, as “co-operating” and offering support in an “on-going police inquiry”.

The judge, Mr Justice Mann, in a brief exchange with MGN’s lawyer, described Mr Nicklin’s client as “newspaper companies” who were currently “vulnerable to criminal prosecution.”

This is the first public reference to the newspaper group facing possible criminal liability charges resulting from the investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Golding.

 

Files examining alleged illegality inside the Mirror titles have already been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. A decision on which, if any, charges will be brought by the prosecuting authority is expected next month once further files are handed over.

During pre-trial hearings, counsel for the Met described the decision on charges as “imminent”.

The involvement of senior MGN journalists in phone hacking has been extensively referenced by witnesses in the civil trial. Hacking is alleged to have taken place on an “industrial scale” which, according to some witnesses, went “right to the top” of the organisation.

However, the focus of Operation Golding – an offshoot of Operation Weeting, which investigated hacking at News International – on the Mirror company itself, rather than just its senior journalists, is a significant development.

The widening of the Met’s corporate probe to include the three MGN titles suggests a potential appetite to test England’s notoriously complex laws on corporate criminality, where successful prosecutions are rare.

The current executive management at MGN were not in charge of the publisher when phone hacking is reported to have been “rife”.

After years of denial that phone hacking was a problem inside their titles, MGN last September announced that hacking had occurred and that cases against it had been settled out of court. The company also issued a public apology stating that the illegality “should never have happened.”

The trial continues.

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