July 25, 2011 7:21 pm

Hacking fears prompt Mirror review

Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Daily Mirror, has launched a review of its editorial controls and procedures amid investor anxiety that phone-hacking allegations could spread beyond the now-defunct News of the World.

“We have to check whether any regulations and controls are dysfunctional and whether bad practice has set in,” said a senior Trinity employee, who declined to be named. “We also need ... to ensure that the provenance of stories is understood at senior editorial levels.”

Trinity saw its shares fall 9.8 per cent on Monday over deepening concern among investors that the phone-hacking scandal that has ripped through Rupert Murdoch’s News International was not isolated to one newspaper group.

James Hipwell, a former Daily Mirror journalist who was jailed in 2006 for share tipping, claimed at the weekend that reporters on the Mirror were engaged in hacking phones when he worked there. Trinity said these claims were “totally unsubstantiated”.

Paul Vickers, Trinity’s group legal director, will lead a six-week review encompassing all of the group’s national and regional papers, including the Daily Record, the Sunday Mirror and the People, and will report back to Trinity’s board in mid-September. Trinity Mirror declined to comment.

UK newspaper groups are coming under pressure to look closely at their internal operations. Shareholders in both DMGT and Trinity Mirror have told the Financial Times that in light of the phone-hacking allegations they would “assume no less” than a review of practices or an internal inquiry.

The allegations being levelled at the industry are unlikely to dissipate soon. Lord Justice Leveson is to head a wide-ranging inquiry looking at wrongdoing in the press and police and the broader question of press regulation.

Trinity Mirror has taken on Herbert Smith, the law firm, to help it in its dealings with the judge-led inquiry.

In 2006, the Information Commissioner published a report called “What Price Privacy now?” looking at how many times journalists on newspapers used private investigators to obtain personal information between 2000-02.

The Daily Mail came in at the top of the list, followed by The People, the Daily Mirror and The Mail on Sunday. The News of the World featured fifth on the list.

The use of private detectives does not necessarily mean that journalists are engaging in criminal activity. “We could not say which instances were illegal and which were legal,” a spokesman for the Information Commission said.

Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, told a parliamentary committee last week that he was not aware of any story published under his editorship where material had been obtained unlawfully.

Daily Mail & General Trust, which publishes the Daily Mail, is issuing an interim management statement on Tuesday.

Trinity Mirror has said that its journalists “work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct”.

Trinity Mirror and DMGT are expected to benefit from the closure of the News of the World, which removed more than a quarter of the total sales of Sunday newspapers and freed up about £35m of annual advertising revenue.

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