Sly Bailey rejects Mirror phonehacking claims

The CEO of Trinity Mirror, Sly Bailey, told the Leveson Inquiry today that she has seen no evidence of phone hacking at Trinity Mirror, only “unsubstantiated allegations”.

When pressed by counsel David Barr why the group had not conducted a detailed investigation, Bailey argued that by investigating claims without evidence of hacking was not a way to run a healthy organisation.

She called claims made by a BBC Newsnight programme that the practice took place at the Sunday Mirror a “terrible piece of journalism”.

Bailey said she had heard the evidence of ex-Mirror reporter James Hipwell, who told the Inquiry that phone hacking was a “bog-standard journalistic tool” used by the paper, but added she was “not sure” whether she knew of his allegations at the time.

In her testimony Bailey also detailed the “intense cyclical pressure” facing her company. “It’s like a falling knife that is getting sharper on the way down,” she said, noting the collapse in recruitment advertising and increasing pressure from digital news platforms. “Our strategy is to build a growing multi-platform business,” she said.

Also speaking today, Tina Weaver, editor of the Sunday Mirror, said privacy injunctions brought by rich, powerful men “rained down on us like confetti” a year ago.

Weaver said she “wrestled with competing tensions” over a kiss and tell story published in the paper involving Rio Ferdinand in April 2010. She said editors now spend a “disproportionate” amount of time balancing Article 8 (private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression), to which Leveson asked, “isn’t that exactly what you should be doing?” Weaver agreed it was.

“It’s where the line is being drawn that concerns me,” Weaver told the Inquiry.

Weaver added that she felt the perception of public interest was at times too narrow. “I think what readers deem to be in the public interest is deemed by judges to be private,” she said.

The Mirror’s investigations editor Andrew Penman discussed his reservations about prior notification. He told the Inquiry he feared the policy becoming compulsory, leading to crooks and fraudsters becoming “the ones you can’t write about.”

He added he believed in a right to “publicity”.

“If the press are stifled, the public is stifled,” he said.

Editor of the People Lloyd Embley told the Inquiry that the varied nature of stories meant he could not see prior notification working in practice.

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