Trinity Mirror’s apology to victims of phone hacking confirms what we have always believed – that the practice was not confined to the News of the World.
Once again, senior executives of a national newspaper have finally admitted criminal behaviour at their titles. The apology from Trinity Mirror comes only after a series of victims settled civil claims, and more are in the pipeline. It is four years late and fails to deal with the issue of corporate responsibility, cover-ups and a continuing rejection of effective regulation and fair remedy for its hundreds of victims.
There has long been clear evidence of widespread phone hacking at Trinity Mirror newspapers but the company has consistently failed to carry out proper investigations into what happened.
Shareholders, readers and the public were assured by the company, after the News of the World hacking scandal came to light in 2011, that there was no evidence of wrong-doing at the Mirror Group. The Leveson Inquiry was told the same thing by executives, under oath, in 2012, and the company was still asking the courts to throw out hacking claims in 2013.
Even after a journalist publicly admitted in sworn testimony, accepted as true by a judge in a criminal trial, that phone hacking was widespread, the company continued to fight the victims in the courts, denying liability.
The company’s executives publicly claimed to the stock market and to Parliament that extensive but futile investigations had been made without saying who had done them or what evidence they had considered.
Trinity Mirror’s long-standing Company Secretary and Group Legal Director, Paul Vickers, was in charge of legal and regulatory compliance throughout the period and made redundant by the company last month. To the utter astonishment of everyone, except the press industry who appointed him, he led the press industry’s rejection of the Leveson Report, and design the identikit PCC replacement, IPSO. He still heads the press industry’s Regulatory Funding Company which controls IPSO and he is the press industry’s main spokesman arguing against the Royal Charter.
The company, having trebled its financial exposure today from £4m to £12m, is still grossly under estimating the cost of the scandal to the business and it refuses to offer its victims access to low cost arbitration that Leveson recommended, forcing them into the High Court. The company is choosing to pay millions to lawyers while making scores of journalists redundant across the country.
It is time for the staff at the company and its investors to demand answers and real action.
Victims of phone hacking will not consider “steps of court” belated apologies while the cover-ups are themselves covered up and while the newspaper rejects the Leveson Royal Charter reforms.
Notes to editors:
1. During evidence given at the Old Bailey former reporter Dan Evans testified that hacking was large scale at the Sunday Mirror and approved and encourage by senior executives. Reports on this can be seen here: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/dan-evans-admits-lot-more-sunday-mirror-phone-hacking-allegations-yet-come-out-court-told and here http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/dan-evans-i-hacked-voicemails-sunday-mirror-and-news-world-court-told
2. Hacked Off has long argued that the hacking group was extensive and covered up. https://hackinginquiry.org/mediareleases/statement-from-hacked-off-on-dan-evans-sentence
3. Sly Bailey [ http://leveson.sayit.mysociety.org/hearing-16-january-2012/mrs-sly-bailey ] and Paul Vickers at the Leveson Inquiry both denied the group’s involvement [ http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122145147/http:/www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Witness-Statement-of-Paul-Vickers.pdf ].
4. Paul Vickers, chairman of the funding body behind IPSO and former legal director of Trinity Mirror announced his retirement from Trinity Mirror on Tuesday 27th January 2015 in front of the House of Lords communications committee on press regulation. His oral evidence can be seen here: [http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/communications-committee/press-regulation/oral/17828.pdf]. On the same day Hacked Off also appeared to give evidence.