James Hipwell, a former business reporter at the Daily Mirror, today said he is prepared to testify before a parliamentary public inquiry that phone hacking at the paper was "endemic," according to The Independent. This just the latest development in the ever-expanding phone hacking scandal which, since News of the World closed down and Rupert Murdoch's bid for British broadcaster BSkyB collapsed, has been implicating more and more of News International's competitors. Foremost among them the Daily Mirror and its former editor, Piers Morgan, who took over Larry King's slot at CNN earlier this year.
Hipwell, who worked at the paper under Piers Morgan, claims phone hacking was particularly widespread in the Mirror's showbiz unit, which was located near where he and the other business reporters sat. Speaking to The Independent:
They would call a celebrity with one phone and when it was answered they would then hang up. By that stage the other phone would be into their [the celebrity's] voicemail and they would key in the code, 9999 or 0000. I saw that a lot. After they'd hacked into someone's mobile, they'd delete the message so another paper couldn't get the story.
After his name was first dragged into the fray last week, Piers Morgan went to Twitter to vigorously deny ever having okay-ed phone hacking while at the Daily Mirror or ever having published a story based on information retrieved through phone hacking. He even took to Wolf Blitzer's CNN show to lambast Louise Mensch, a member of Parliament who publicly pointed to a section of Piers's book where he discusses a "little trick" that sounds an awful lot like what Hipwell describes above. Granted, Piers does clarify (around the 3:18 mark) that in the book he only mentions knowing about the trick, not having used it — in 2007 he did call the practice an invasion of privacy when interviewed for GQ by supermodel Naomi Campbell. In that same interview, though, Piers did seem to go easy on many of his colleagues saying that "loads of newspaper journalists were doing it" and that he believed the practice was not "as serious as planting a bug in someone's house, which is what some people think was going on." (Another highlight from that interview: Piers Morgan saying that his own phone had been hacked at the time by rival newspapers.)
Piers isn't the only one Hipwell is naming as a culprit: Sean Hoare, a former editor at the Mirror's sister paper The People before moving to NotW. (In the spirit of full disclosure, it must be mentioned that Hipwell was fired from the Mirror in 2000 for buying shares in a company that the paper's business column was preparing to boost.) Now it just remains to be seen what the parliamentary inquiry makes of Hipwell's allegations and whether they will call on a certain America-bound TV personality to make an appearance in Westminster's hallowed halls.
Hacking was endemic at the 'Mirror', says former reporter [Independent UK]