Phone hacking 'standard tool' at UK tabloid: ex-reporter
Phone hacking appeared to be a "standard tool" for information gathering, a former journalist for the Daily Mirror tabloid told a public inquiry into media ethics on Wednesday.
James Hipwell, who was jailed in 2006 for writing stories about companies in which he owned shares, told the Leveson Inquiry that phone hacking had taken place on a daily basis during his time at the paper.
He also threw doubt on former Mirror editor Piers Morgan's claim in evidence on Tuesday that he had no knowledge that hacking went on there.
Hipwell said: "I would go as far as to say that it happened every day and that it became apparent that a great number of the Mirror's showbusiness stories would come from that source. That is my clear memory."
He said he heard one reporter claim to have deleted someone else's voicemail message so that a journalist from rival tabloid The Sun could not listen to it.
"One of the reporters showed me the technique, giving me a demonstration of how to hack into voicemails," he told the inquiry in London.
"The openness and frequency of their hacking activities gave me the impression that hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for getting information."
He said: "The practice seemed to be common on other newspapers as well."
Hipwell told the inquiry the reporters generally believed hacking was acceptable as celebrities were "fair game".
"I think it was seen as a slightly underhand thing to do but not illegal," he said.
"It just seemed to be fair game, fair play, any means to get a story."
He added: "It became a daily part of their news-gathering operation."
Morgan, now a CNN chat show host, had said in a combative evidence session that he had no reason to believe phone hacking went on at the Mirror during his editorship.
But Hipwell told the inquiry: "Looking at his style of editorship, I would say it was very unlikely that he didn't know what was going on because, as I have said, there wasn't very much he didn't know about.
"As I think he said in his testimony, he took a very keen interest in the work of his journalists. Showbusiness is very close to his heart."
Hipwell was given a six-month prison sentence in February 2006 for pocketing nearly £41,000 ($64,500, 49,000 euros). He mentioned the stocks in a financial news column in the Mirror and then quickly sold them as their value rose.
Separately Wednesday, investigators from a parallel operation arrested a London police officer on suspicion of receiving illegal payments from journalists.
The 52-year-old woman was being held held in Essex, south east England, after being detained by officers from Operation Elveden, set up to probe alleged payments by journalists to police.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up after the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World was shut down in July following allegations that the Sunday tabloid had accessed the voicemail of a murdered schoolgirl.
The private investigator at the centre of the News of the World scandal won a court action against his employer over his legal fees on Wednesday.
Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for six months in 2007 for intercepting messages on royal aides' phones, had sued a subsidiary of the Murdoch-owned News International for breach of contract.
Police on Wednesday arrested a 52-year-old woman detective in London's Metropolitan Police on suspicion of accepting payments from journalists in a related investigation.
© 2011 AFP