REPORTING FROM LONDON -- Contradicting testimony by Piers Morgan, a former reporter said Wednesday that phone hacking was considered a "standard journalistic tool” at the tabloid once run by the CNN host.
Former Daily Mirror business columnist James Hipwell's testimony clashed with Morgan's insistence on Tuesday that he did not know the practice was used at the tabloid during his time as editor between 1995 and 2004.
Hipwell, who was fired from the paper in 2000 and later convicted of buying low-priced shares before recommending them in his popular City Slickers column, is now a freelance writer.
He gave his statement to a panel headed by senior judge Brian Leveson that is looking into ethical standards and practices of journalism in Britain.
Hipwell told the panel he believed hacking was used on a daily basis by the tabloid's reporters who covered show business. They would often laugh and joke about it, he said.
“I would go as far as to say it happened every day," Hipwell told the panel. "It became apparent that a great number of stories ... would come from that source.” He said he even witnessed a colleague hacking into Morgan’s own mobile “in front me" in 2000.
The Leveson inquiry was ordered up by the British government to investigate media methods and practices following revelations in July that kidnapping victim Milly Dowler's cellphone was hacked on behalf of journalists in 2002. The 13-year-old was later found slain.
The Dowler scandal forced the closure of the News of the World, a popular tabloid. Clive Goodman, a News of the World reporter who served a jail sentence for hacking into the phones of the British royal household in 2007, is so far the only journalist to be convicted in connection with the practice.
Other victims of the phone hacking included celebrities and politicians as well as crime victims and their families. Some have received or been promised out-of-court settlements.
The inquiry, expected to last at least a year, is running parallel to police investigations and parliamentary hearings on the subject. In a separate development, police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a 52-year-old police officer in their operation looking into police corruption.
She was the first serving police officer to be arrested in the police inquiry, one of three that have so far led to the arrests at least 19 people.
Photo: Former Daily Mirror tabloid journalist James Hipwell leaves the Leveson inquiry into media ethics at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Wednesday. Credit: Justin Tallis / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images