Piers Morgan knew about phone-hacking, UK court rules

By Sam Tobin and Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) -High-profile British broadcaster Piers Morgan, the former editor of British tabloid the Daily Mirror, knew about phone hacking at the newspaper, a judge at London’s High Court ruled on Friday in a lawsuit brought by Prince Harry and others.

Morgan has often publicly criticised Harry and his U.S. wife Meghan, and called for them to lose their titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The broadcaster, who now works for News Corp’s Talk TV and writes articles for its papers, has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, phone-hacking or other illegal or unlawful activity.

He said on Friday: “I’ve never hacked a phone or told anybody else to hack a phone and nobody has produced any actual evidence to prove that I did.”

Speaking outside his London home, Morgan added: “I wasn’t called as a witness … by either side in the case, nor was I asked to provide any statement. I would have very happily agreed to do either or both of those things had I been asked.”

In his ruling on Friday, Judge Timothy Fancourt found Harry had been a victim of phone-hacking and other unlawful behaviour by journalists at Mirror Group Newspapers, and said editors had been aware of what was going on.

Omid Scobie, co-author of “Finding Freedom”, an unofficial 2020 biography of Harry and Meghan, gave evidence that Morgan was “reassured” over a 2002 story about singer Kylie Minogue and her then partner James Gooding after being told it had come from voicemail interception.

Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, questioned Scobie about his motives in giving evidence in support of Harry’s case. Scobie was doing work experience at the tabloid at the time.

But Fancourt said in his written ruling on Friday that Scobie was “a straightforward and reliable witness”.

“I accept what he said about Mr Morgan’s involvement in the Minogue/Gooding story,” the judge added. “No evidence was called by MGN to contradict it.”


Fancourt also accepted the evidence of several other witnesses who claimed Morgan was aware that other stories published by MGN newspapers were the product of phone hacking.

The judge referred to evidence given by David Seymour, group political editor of the Daily Mirror from 1993 to 2007, that Morgan had played a voicemail in the newsroom of Paul McCartney singing a song by the Beatles to his then wife in 2001.

“Mr Seymour struck me as a man of intelligence and integrity,” Fancourt said in his ruling. “I accept his evidence without hesitation.”

Fancourt also accepted the evidence of other witnesses who said Morgan had boasted about phone hacking to an adviser to former British prime minister Tony Blair.

The judge also said in his ruling there is “compelling evidence that the editors of each newspaper knew very well that (voicemail interception) was being used extensively and habitually and that they were happy to take the benefits of it”.

The judge said editors were also happy to take the benefits of “connected and related” unlawful information gathering by MGN journalists and private investigators.

Sly Bailey – chief executive of MGN’s then parent company Trinity Mirror, now known as Reach, between 2003 and 2012 – was also found to have known about the habitual use of phone-hacking and other unlawful information gathering.

Bailey gave evidence in May that she had “no knowledge of these activities” and that revelations of unlawful acts were “a matter of great regret”.

However, Fancourt found that Bailey and Paul Vickers, Trinity Mirror’s group legal director until 2014, “knew about – or, which amounts to the same thing, turned a blind eye to – the extensive and habitual” unlawful information gathering at MGN.

Fancourt also found that Gary Jones – formerly a reporter for the Daily Mirror and now editor of Reach’s Daily Express newspaper – instructed private investigators to unlawfully obtain information about people including Prince Michael, the cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth.

After the ruling, Harry called on regulators and the police to investigate potential criminal offences.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin and Michael Holden; Additional reporting by Kylie MacLennan; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Mark Potter)