Trinity Mirror chief denies 'ostrich like' approach to phone-hacking and says MP sexting sting was in public interest

Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox has denied that his company took an "ostrich like" approach to phone-hacking and issued a robust defence of the Sunday Mirror sexting sting which this week prompted minister Brooks Newmark to resign.

In an email to staff he said: "We have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons."

On phone-hacking he said: "As you know, last week we admitted liability to 4 individuals in respect of phone hacking, it is clear that in the past, parts of our industry, including ourselves, fell well below the standards expected of us.

"Where we believe – on good evidence – this has happened, we will apologise and compensate those affected. In our half year financial accounts, we set aside money to deal with the costs of settling these actions and we continue to believe that these sums are appropriate and sufficient.

"As a number of our former journalists have been arrested, I am unable to comment on any possible criminal cases for the obvious legal reasons.

"It has been suggested that we have adopted an ostrich like approach to hacking – if we ignored it, it would go away and that we have not held any proper form of investigation. This could not be further from the truth."

He said that the company has conducted "a very extensive investigation" into phone-hacking at its titles, adding that "short of ripping up the floorboards in a way that would disrupt the running of the group, we have done everything that could have been done".

He said that independent outside "e-forensic experts" and lawyers have been engaged at "considerable expense" to review "many tens of millions of pieces of data".

Fox said this process has prompted the recent settlements in civil cases. Last month Trinity Mirror admitted phone-hacking at its national titles for the first time and settled ten civil claims.

Fox has also defended the Sunday Mirror's publication of an undercover sting in which a reporter posed as a "twentysomething Tory PR girl" on Twitter prompting former Civil Societies minister Newmark to send him a revealing photograph of himself.

Fox said: "Whilst this has attracted a barrage of negative comment and the threat of an IPSO investigation, we believe that we were right to publish this story on public interest grounds.

"If you have only read or heard the coverage rather than read The Sunday Mirror itself, you will have been left with a very wrong impression of what we did. Most importantly we did not publish any photographs of the women in the story. Nor did we list any names of any MPs other than Brooks Newmark.

"The images of the women that you have seen widely reproduced were put there by other publications. The same goes for other MPs including those who have said that they will complain to IPSO.

"Mr Brooks Newmark was not just an MP but a Minister (for civil society), with security clearance who took a role in foreign affairs and was co-founder for the campaign group 'Women2Win', an initiative designed to get more women into politics.

"We acquired this story from a reputable freelance reporter who had set up a fake Twitter account as a Tory PR woman under the name of 'Sophie'. She/he 'followed' on Twitter a number of MPs, celebrities and news organisations.

"It is significant that it was Brooks Newmark who initiated the move away from the public forum and into private communication with 'Sophie'. Since publication of our story and his resignation Mr Newmark has said that he 'has nobody to blame but himself'."

Fox did however admit that the use of pictures of models without their permission in the course of the sting was wrong.

He said: "We thought that the photos of "Sophie" used on the twitter account were posed by models but we now know that some real pictures were used without permission. When we discovered the truth we recognised that the use of these pictures had been wrong and issued an apology to the women involved.  We have been in contact with one of them and indeed she will be telling us her side of the story in next weekend's paper."

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