Trinity denies People reporter's phone-hack claims

Trinity Mirror‘s review into editorial controls and procedures concluded there were no grounds for concern that phone-hacking was widespread at its national titles, despite recent allegations by a former reporter that the practice was rife at Sunday tabloid the People.

The review, conducted by group legal director Paul Vickers, found that in general the company had robust editorial controls in place, but it did identify several areas in which procedures could be strengthened.

These include training, legal oversight and the use of third-party suppliers such as news agencies and freelances.

The last editorial review was conducted after the Hutton report in 2004. The growth of online platforms since then meant another area the company will look to make changes is in the digital area, Press Gazette understands.

Trinity has also denied claims it bought the silence of a former People journalist who claimed hacking was widespread at the paper and described his allegations as ‘unsubstantiated”.

A witness statement meant to be used in an employment tribunal claim brought by former People reporter David Brown was leaked to Sky News this week, and in it he claimed celebrity phone-hacking targets at the paper included Ulrika Jonsson, Noel Edmonds, Jessie Wallace and the Beckhams

Brown was fired from the People in April 2006 for gross misconduct over allegations he took stories from the Daily Mirror files, but later claimed for unfair dismissal and wrote the statement in 2007 for use in an employment tribunal.

The statement was never used because the company settled out of court with Brown.

In the statement he claimed: “A number of the methods used to pry into individuals’ lives were illegal and I have little doubt that if these people knew they had been spied upon, they would take legal action for breach of their right to privacy.”

He added: “I was sent to Sweden to doorstep and confront a British man living in Stockholm after being told he had been in mobile phone contact with the TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson on the basis of information being gleaned from her mobile phone. This was done by ‘screwing’ or tapping Ms Jonsson’s phone’s message bank.”

Among his other allegations was that colleagues tapped the phone of David Beckham’s children’s nanny Abbie Gibson.

Brown also claimed that after the News of the World‘s royal editor Clive Goodman was arrested in 2006 a ‘senior human resources’figure contacted executives on Trinity’s national titles ‘to tell them that if they were asked by other newspapers or trade publications whether they had used information from ‘screwed’ mobile phones they should deny it”.

In response to the claims Trinity Mirror said: ‘These unsubstantiated allegations are taken from a draft statement that was never tested under cross examination, made by an aggrieved employee who had been dismissed.

‘As happens every day across the country, we decided in 2007 to settle the case for an amount that was less than it would have cost us to fight it and win.

‘We paid £20,000. The only way to settle such cases is through a compromise agreement which is also endorsed by the employees’ own lawyer. It is absolutely standard for a compromise agreement to contain a confidentiality clause.

‘All our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC Code of Conduct and we have seen no evidence to suggest otherwise.”

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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