The Independent reports today that it is holding evidence that a senior individual at Mirror Group Newspapers regularly paid a private investigator for mobile phone numbers and private pin access codes “at least two years before phone-hacking became a routine practice at the News of the World”.
The paper claims that it has been shown invoices naming the individual – who was not identified by the paper – regularly paying up to £125 a time for the information.
The news comes after it emerged yesterday that four people are taking action against publisher Trinity Mirror over alleged phone hacking, it has emerged.
Media lawyer Mark Lewis said he was acting for all four claimants – former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, Abbie Gibson, a former nanny for the Beckham family, and Garry Flitcroft, the former captain of Blackburn Rovers football team.
The allegations related to newspapers in the Mirror Group Newspapers stable – the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People, he said.
A former Trinity Mirror reporter, again unnamed, also repeated claims to The Independent made ex-Mirror staffer James Hipwell in Decmeber 2011 at the Leveson Inquiry, who said hacking was a “bog-standard” tool for journalists working on the Daily Mirror's showbiz desk.
Hipwell was jailed in 2006 for taking part in a £41,000 "tip, buy and sell" conspiracy through the paper’s City Slicker column between 1999 and 2000.
The anonymous reporter told The Independent: “It [hacking] started off as a cult activity by showbiz reporters. It was a plentiful source of cheap diary stories, but then it became proven that it broke big stories, and the news people started to use it and the showbiz people started to get promoted into news – and they would insist it was used. It became standard practice.”
Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing the four new claimants, said that since yesterday others had come forward to contact him.
Following the allegations Trinity said: "We note the allegations made against us by Mark Lewis in today's papers.
"We have not yet received any claims nor have we been provided with any substantiation for those claims.
"As we have previously stated, all our journalists work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission Code of Conduct."