This article was published on The Guardian website this morning (March 4th 2015), written by Jane Martinson.
A campaign group is to call on the press industry to sack the chair of the body which controls new media regulator Ipso, claiming that Paul Vickers is “unfit for the role” because of allegations of widespread phone hacking at Trinity Mirror while he was legal director there.
Hacked Off said that his departure had become necessary after the beginning of the the first civil trial claiming damages against the newspaper group because of “industrial-scale” phone hacking at the company between 1999 to 2006.
Evan Harris, associate director of Hacked Off, said: “Only newspaper corporations which care nothing about the damage done to the innocent victims of the criminal abuse in their industry, and even less about the cover-ups or codes of silence which they have been engaged in, could think it acceptable for the body which controls the budget and the rules of the press regulator to have Paul Vickers at its head
“Paul Vickers was the legal director of Trinity Mirror for all the years that the industrial-scale hacking has now been admitted to have taken place across all three of its national titles.”
Vickers spent 22 years at Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily and Sunday Mirror and the People, before he departed last month. He had acted as company secretary and group legal director.
Previously Vickers had told the culture, media and sport committee in 2013 that the company had done “huge investigations” and “not found any proof that phone hacking took place”.
After helping to set up Ipso after the Leveson inquiry into industry malpractice. He now chairs the Regulatory Funding Company, which raises funds from the newspaper and magazine industry to pay for the industry regulator.
In October, Vickers was made redundant from Trinity Mirror after a long career. In a statement, a company spokesman said his role was “made redundant as part of a larger restructuring”.
Vickers also told the House of Lords communications committee on press regulation that he was aware of the phone-hacking complaints made against the newspaper group while he was drawing up plans to govern the industry, but denied any suggestion of a conflict of interest.
The publisher later paid compensation to a number of victims of phone hacking and printed its first open apology for phone hacking in the paper. It has so far set aside £15m for costs, according to a spokesman.
Harris said: “Ipso would have little credibility even if Mother Teresa were in charge of pulling its strings. Instead, it has got Paul Vickers – the face of corporate denial of widespread criminal activity.”
“The PCC stood accused and convicted of a sham investigation and whitewash of the hacking scandal at News International. Now we can all see why the ‘son of PCC’ – Ipso – is barred by the RFC’s rules from even looking at the Mirror hacking scandal.”
A spokesman for Ipso said the calls for the news and magazine industries to sack the chair of its funding body was “not a matter for Ipso”. Emails to the RFC went unanswered. Vickers did not respond to a request for comment.
Hacked Off is to call on the News Media Association, which represents newspaper groups, and the PPA for magazines, who appointed Vickers to remove him from the role.
The Guardian, the FT and the Independent are the only major newspaper groups not to sign up to Ipso, which started life last September.