Ex-Daily Mirror journalist James Hipwell tells court hacking was 'endemic' - and denies 'ultimate payback' motivation

Former Mirror Group journalist James Hipwell (pictured, Reuters) has denied that giving evidence to the High Court phone-hacking trial was the "ultimate payback" for going to prison over the "City Slickers" share-dealing scandal.

Hipwell received a six-month sentence in 2005 after he was convicted of conspiracy to contravene the Financial Services Act.

On Friday, he appeared as a witness at the hearing to decide what compensation should be paid by Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) in eight representative cases, including former footballer Paul Gascoigne, TV executive Alan Yentob, soap stars Shobna Gulati and Shane Richie, and actress Sadie Frost.

Mr Justice Mann has been told that hacking was rife at all three of the group's national titles by mid-1999.

Hipwell, who joined the Daily Mirror in 1998 and was dismissed in 2000, said he did not shrink from the description that phone-hacking was "endemic" and he never saw anyone display "any moral qualms" about doing it.

He remembered Yentob was a regular victim as he had a "very clear memory" of journalists singing a line from the Spike Milligan song "The Ying Tong Song" when his phone had been hacked, replacing the words "Ying Tong" with the word "Yentob".

Hipwell was challenged by Matthew Nicklin QC, for MGN: "You went to prison for a share scandal in 2005 and this is the ultimate payback, isn't it?"

Hipwell replied: "No, as I've said, it's no such thing."

He said he was "merely describing my experience of working at the Mirror and seeing phone-hacking happening around me while I was there".

"It's the responsible thing to do, 15 years later, and I am more than happy that I've done it."

He repeated: "I believe it's the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do."

Hipwell was the last witness to give evidence and the case was adjourned until Wednesday, when counsel will start their closing speeches.

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