Piers Morgan “must have known about voicemail interception” and other illegal newsgathering techniques when he was editor of the Daily Mirror, it has been claimed at the High Court.
Lawyers acting for alleged victims of phone hacking brought the charge as they searched for financial records relating to Morgan’s time at the helm of the newspaper in the early 2000s.
They claim illegal techniques were used by people working for the Mirror during Morgan’s time as editor, including in relation to a story exposing Jeremy Clarkson for having an affair.
Morgan recently signed a huge deal with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire worth tens of millions of pounds to be the face of future talkTV. He has always strongly denied any knowledge of phone hacking to the Mirror and previously told the Guardian: ‘I have never hacked a phone or told anyone to hack a phone.
Yet documents filed in the High Court allege that, during Morgan’s tenure as editor, a Daily Mirror reporter had “carried out VMI [voicemail interception] on Mr. Clarkson and tracking down his phone bill” with the help of a private detective agency.
Lawyers allege this information was later used to help paparazzi photographers capture photos of Clarkson with a woman who was not his wife, which were later published by Morgan in the Mirror. In the legal documents, they insist it was inconceivable that Morgan did not know how the high-profile celebrity story was obtained.
One of their main sources is The Insider, Morgan’s own book about his time as editor of the Mirror: “Mr Morgan admitted in the Insider that he had approached Mr Clarkson and must have known the origins of the history and details of the UIG. [unlawful information gathering] before he does.
Court papers also say Southern Investigations, a private detective agency run by former police officers that was embroiled in the Daniel Morgan murder case, helped the Mirror with Clarkson’s story. While Morgan was editor, private investigators issued a bill to help contact “confidential sources” for information on Clarkson.
In order to prove the charges, the lawyers are seeking disclosure of payments to private investigators, if any, which were signed by Morgan and Neil Wallis, the editor of sister title The Sunday People.
Although more than 15 years have passed since the start of the phone-hacking scandal, which led to the closure of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, cases continue to make their way through the justice system.
Dozens of individuals, including the Duke of Sussex, are still filing new claims. Murdoch’s News UK and Reach, publisher of the Mirror, have collectively paid out hundreds of millions of pounds in damages since 2006.