City Slicker 'was asked to frustrate' probe into Morgan's share dealings

By Melvyn Howe, PA

One of the Daily Mirror’s former City Slickers columnists told a
court he was asked to help get former editor Piers Morgan out of
“trouble” following share ramping claims.

James Hipwell said his former editor spent £20,000 on stock he discovered was going to be tipped in the column the next day.

When
Sir Alan Sugar’s company Viglen “soared” in value following the
article, the tabloid’s bosses asked City law firm Lovells to
investigate the editor’s dealings.

Hipwell denies “manipulating”
the market and pocketing tens of thousands with a “buy, tip, sell”
conspiracy in 1999-2000. He told Southwark Crown Court that fellow
columnist Anil Bhoyrul had been informed by Morgan that he had bought
£20,000 of Viglen shares the day before it was tipped in the paper.

Hipwell
said that after the investigation was launched he was approached by the
newspaper’s in-house lawyer Martin Cruddace and Tina Weaver, the
Mirror’s deputy editor.

“They came over to my desk and said I
needed to help Piers Morgan because he was in trouble and that I should
generally frustrate the Lovells investigation.

“I needed to make it clear to Lovells’

solicitors that Piers had not seen the Viglen story before it went into the newspaper.”

During
cross-examination, Hipwell said that because his pre-Mirror
journalistic background lay exclusively in magazines, he had not been
familiar with the workings of the Press Complaints Commission.

Its
code of conduct forbids journalists buying or selling shares they have
either just written about or planned to do so in the near future.

Hipwell said of the code: “As far as I’m aware, no journalist at the Mirror had ever had a copy or ever seen a copy.”

The court also heard that Morgan had “encouraged” his City Slickers columnists to buy the shares they were tipping.

Hipwell said Morgan used the analogy that “you would not learn to drive from somebody who had never been in a car”.

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