Phone hacking was bog-standard tool, says ex-Mirror journalist
Published Dec 21 2011, 12:37 GMT | By Andrew Laughlin
© Rex Features / Jeff Blackler
Phone hacking was a "bog-standard journalistic tool" used for gathering information, a former Daily Mirror
financial reporter has claimed. James Hipwell
, who was imprisoned five years ago for writing articles about firms whose stock he owned, told the Leveson inquiry into press ethics today that he witnessed repeated infringements of privacy while working at the paper.
He said that he sat next to the showbiz team and continually overheard journalists talking openly about phone hacking.
Publisher Trinity Mirror insists that all its employees work within the law.
Hipwell's claims also appear to contradict evidence given yesterday by former Daily Mirror
editor Piers Morgan, who claimed that he does not believe the paper's journalists ever engaged in phone hacking
Speaking today, Hipwell said that he had never been given a copy of the press code of conduct while he worked for the paper under Morgan, contrary to the former editor's claims. He further said that he never saw any visible signs of ethical leadership at the title.
In a statement to the inquiry, Hipwell said: "I witnessed journalists carrying out repeated privacy infringements using what has now become a well-known technique - to hack into the voicemail systems of celebrities, their friends, publicists and public relations executives.
"The openness and frequency of their hacking activities gave me the impression that hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for gathering information."
In his evidence, Hipwell added: "Showbiz hacks discussed techniques and products of hacking openly. I would go as far as to say it happened every day. It became apparent that a great number of stories... would come from that source."
Hipwell described Morgan as a "very hands-on" editor and the "beating heart" of the paper, often spending half an hour every day discussing showbiz stories with reporters. Morgan previously edited The Sun
's 'Bizarre' showbiz column.
"Showbusiness is very close to his heart... a lot of people who had worked on the showbusiness desk had come from The Sun
and they were old friends," said Hipwell.
"Nothing really happened on that desk without Piers knowing about it."
Hipwell, who was jailed for six months in February 2006 after earning almost £41,000 from insider trading, also told the inquiry that it was "very unlikely" Morgan did not know that Mirror
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