Piers Morgan ‘explained with a smile how to hack phones’, High Court hears
Prince Harry and other claimants have accused Daily Mirror publisher MGN of using unlawful methods to obtain stories
Piers Morgan explained how to hack into mobile phone voicemails to get news stories, Tony Blair's director of strategic communications has claimed during a high-profile phone-hacking trial against Mirror Group Newspapers.
Prince Harry and other claimants have accused Daily Mirror publisher MGN of using unlawful methods to obtain stories, with prosecutor David Sherborne arguing that such methods were so widely used, they became the "go-to" for stories.
He added that Morgan, who edited the Mirror from 1995 to 2004, and other senior editors authorised the use of private investigators to employ illegal methods to get stories, and “must have known” what they were doing.
In a written submission to the High Court on Wednesday, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, a journalist who later became the director of strategic communications for Blair, claimed Morgan had once told him how to hack into voicemails.
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At a meal the pair shared in September 2002 following the Labour Party Conference, then-Guardian journalist Wegg-Prosser asked Morgan how the Daily Mirror had managed to get a story about an affair between then England football manager Sven Goran-Eriksson and the television presenter Ulrika Jonsson, the court heard.
“Mr Morgan asked Mr Prosser which network provider he used for his mobile phone and then told him the default PIN for that network, and then explained that the default PIN numbers were well known and rarely changed, which is how mobile phone messages could be accessed remotely.
“He then said, with a smile, that the story on Mr Eriksson and Ms Jonsson was obtained through that method. During the Leveson Inquiry in 2012, having watched Jeremy Paxman give evidence in May 2012, Mr Wegg-Prosser emailed counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC on 23 May 2012 and told him about the conversation with Mr Morgan in 2002."
Sherborne told the court that the use of private investigators was authorised at senior levels, including by desk heads, editors, managing editors and senior executives, and suggested it was “inconceivable” that Morgan and others did not know about the hacking.
“Put bluntly it was worth the risk,” Sherborne said, having claimed in his opening argument that MGN spent £11m on the use of private investigators despite being a company "concerned with aggressive cost control".
“It was a risk because it contradicted the very public denials that they were making in relation to the use of unlawful information gathering,” he added.
On Wednesday, the High Court was told the tabloid publisher has “unreservedly” apologised to the Duke of Sussex for an instance of unlawful information gathering.
Andrew Green KC, for MGN, said voicemail interception was denied in the trial cases, including Harry’s.
However Mr Green also said the publisher “unreservedly apologises” to the duke for one instance of unlawful information gathering and that it accepts he was entitled to “appropriate compensation”.
The barrister said that it was admitted that a private investigator was instructed, by an MGN journalist at The People, to unlawfully gather information about his activities at the Chinawhite nightclub one night in February 2004.
“Otherwise, the specified allegations are denied, or in a few cases not admitted,” he added.
Prince Harry is due to give evidence in the case in June, although an exact date is not known as yet.
Morgan resigned from his role on Good Morning Britain after he was criticised for repeatedly attacking Harry's wife, Meghan Markle.