The editor of The Sun conceded today he could not be 100 per cent sure that some showbusiness stories published in the tabloid had not been obtained by phone hacking.
Dominic Mohan, who was recalled to the Leveson Inquiry to give further evidence, was questioned over a series of celebrity stories dating from a number of years ago.
- June 22, 2017
- June 20, 2017
- June 9, 2017
Among them were an article about Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and his then-wife Patsy Kensit and another about EastEnders star Martine McCutcheon, both from 1998.
Asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC whether these stories might have been obtained by hacking into voicemails, Mr Mohan replied: “Look, I can’t say 100% and there’s an investigation being conducted by the Management Standards Committee at News International, as you well know.”
And he told the hearing there were various other sources that such stories tended to be obtained from in any case.
“Many stories are obtained through going to events, talking to celebrities at nightclubs, in bars,” he said.
“At this time I was…interviewing a lot of celebrities who would tell me things off the record.” It was “more likely” that the Liam Gallagher story had come from a Sun reporter’s contacts than from phone hacking, he said.
He also protested that he could not be “expected to remember sources from 14 years ago”.
Mohan, who formerly edited The Sun’s showbusiness column, Bizarre, has been at the helm of the newspaper since 2009.
Mohan was again asked about comments he made at an awards ceremony in 2002 in which he thanked “Vodafone’s lack of security” for the showbusiness exclusives in rival paper the Daily Mirror.
He told the inquiry: “It was a joke that I made. We talked about it last time I was here.
“The award ceremony was sponsored by Vodafone so I guess it popped into my head and seemed apt.”
Asked if it was an “in-joke” among journalists about phone hacking, he replied: “As I said last time there had been rumours swirling around the industry.
“And I think I have referred to several articles earlier that had put that information in the public domain, so it was known not only in journalism but to the broader public, I would suggest.”
Asked if he had adopted the term “rumour mill” about hacking in his evidence – the same description used by former News of the World editor Piers Morgan – because each of them knew voicemail hacking was going on at their newspapers, he replied: “No, that’s not the truth, not even close.”
Mohan also defended The Sun’s Page 3, which features pictures of topless models.
“This was first published 42 years ago. I think it’s meant to represent the youth and freshness and it celebrates natural beauty.
“We don’t have models who have plastic surgery on the page.
“It is obviously legal, we are allowed to publish the images, and I think it’s become quite an innocuous British institution.
“As a parent myself, I am more concerned about images that children might come across on the internet or on digital devices.
“I think it’s part of British society. I think the ultimate sanction comes with the reader. The reader is not compelled to buy the newspaper on a daily basis, and I think it’s tolerated in British society by the majority of British society.”
A said Page 3 girls were “much more than models”.
Mohan’s comments came as women’s charity Platform 51 said it had commissioned a poll that found more than two fifths of women in the UK would support a ban on the use of topless images in daily newspapers.
The charity said 2,013 UK adults aged 18 and over were questioned online from February 3-6 this year, and results showed 42% of women would support a ban.