Daily Mail: 'We never hacked phones'

Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers has insisted that none of its journalists have been involved in phone-hacking.

The publisher’s counsel Jonathan Caplan told the Leveson Inqury today that Associated condemned the practice and that ‘so far as it is aware no journalist at Associated Newspapers has engaged in phone-hacking”.

‘It [Associated Newspapers] does not bribe police officers and, in particular, it condemns the shameful practice of hacking the mobile phones of the victims of crime, or of their families,’added Caplan.

The statement comes a day after The Sun and the Daily Mirror were seemingly implicated in the scandal when it emerged that notes seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire contained one apparent reference each to both newspapers.

In his opening remarks to the inquiry Caplan said his client believed that press standards had ‘vastly improved’over the last 20 years under the Press Complaints Commission, and that most journalists were ‘hard working, conscientious and honest, and passionately believe in what they do”.

Associated was also ‘anxious’that the phone-hacking allegations against the News of the World ‘should not be allowed to besmirch the profession as a whole”.

The publisher also defended celebrity and entertainment stories, claiming they helped make the newspaper commercially viable.

‘The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are commercially successful precisely because they connect with their readership and their values,’said Caplan.

‘And that readership will stop buying those newspapers if they feel that they cannot trust its integrity or its accuracy.

‘Newspapers are held to account every day by their readers, and it’s their readership’s tastes and attitudes and whether they’re met or not that determine the commercial viability of a newspaper.”

Caplan told the inquiry that middle market tiles like the Daily Mail needed ‘to be gossipy and sensational if they are to attract large circulations”, adding: ‘Stories about celebrities and the course of human relationships are a part of that attraction, and they do enable space to be provided elsewhere in the newspaper for more serious articles providing analysis and comment about perhaps more important issues to the day.

‘The aim is to both entertain and critically to engage.”

Commenting more specifically on celebrity stories and intrusion into privacy, Caplan said: ‘We must also remember that we live in a country which is one of the major centres of the arts and entertainment industries.

‘Many people have become celebrities and gone from relative obscurity to international fame and wealth because of the vibrant press which we have here, which has been able to capture the imagination of its readership through stories about their personal lives which are usually informative as opposed to being intrusive.’

He continued: ‘With news and investigative journalists those stories of course are not plucked full grown from the trees, they very often have somebody who is very wealthy and powerful and who doesn’t want that story to be printed.

‘Newspapers therefore require considerable resources and resourcefulness to invest and then to establish the truth and accuracy of what they have printed. They need to be commercially successful to perform that role.”

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