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Piers Morgan’s Statement on the Prince Harry Phone Hacking Case – Annotated

Dr Evan Harris, former Director of Hacked Off and now a legal analyst to the successful claimants against Mirror Group Newspapers over phone hacking and other unlawful information gathering, deconstructs former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan’s statement on the damning judgement against the firm last week.

Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan speaks to the media at his home in west London, after a High Court judge ruled that there was “extensive” phone hacking by Mirror Group Newspapers under his and other editors’ tenures. The Duke of Sussex was awarded damages. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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Last Friday, the High Court ruled that phone hacking and other unlawful information gathering (“UIG”) occurred throughout Piers Morgan’s editorship at Mirror Group Newspapers and that Morgan knew about it and published articles he knew came from it.

Below, the Claimants’ legal analyst Dr Evan Harris annotates Morgan’s public statement on the judgement. The court confirmed that unlawful information gathering took place right up to 2011 – including during the Leveson Inquiry.

It resulted in damages for Prince Harry and others. The outcome conflicts with Morgan’s public narrative… 

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Piers Morgan’s Statement on Phone Hacking, Unpicked

“I’ve got a short statement for you. A judge in the high court in London has ruled on various cases, including Prince Harry’s claim against Mirror group newspapers [actually part of – a sample of 33 of 148 articles in his claim], where I was an editor (actually the editor of the Daily Mirror from 1995-2004) until 2004.”

The judge found that hacking at Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) started in ..1995.

“The judgement finds there is just one article relating to the prince published in the Daily Mirror during my entire nine year tenure as editor that he thinks may have involved some unlawful information gathering.”

This is misleading. There are still 19 articles from the period of Morgan’s editorship of the Daily Mirror, in the remaining 115 articles in Prince Harrys’ claim which have not yet been ruled on by the Judge.

In addition, there are dozens more claimants with hundreds of contested articles from his period as Editor, and his former employers have previously paid out millions of pounds of damages in hundreds of settlements to previous claimants for unlawfully obtained articles in the Daily Mirror in that period.

“To be clear, I had then and still have zero knowledge of how that particular story was gathered.”

Even if we believe him, which we don’t, this pleaded ignorance (i.e. not knowing the source of any of his scoops) would simply make him the worst Editor ever to have afflicted the newsrooms of Fleet Street.

“All his other claims against the Daily Mirror under my editorship were rejected.”

False. There are 19 other articles in his claim alone and hundreds more articles in dozens more claims still to be ruled on.

“With regard to the judge’s other references [they were excoriating findings, not mere references – paras 330-345 here] to me, in his judgement, I also want to reiterate, as I’ve consistently said for many years now, I’ve never hacked a phone…

It is about much more than hacking voicemails – it covers other unlawful information gathering – UIG.

“…or told anybody else to hack a phone, and nobody has produced any actual evidence to prove that I did.”

But that is not what is alleged or what the judge found. The allegation – which the judge found proved – is that he knew about voicemail interception (VMI) and UIG, and knowingly published articles based on it.

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Withering Verdict

This is some of what the Judge said, firstly in relation to an Ulrika-Sven story in 2002 that Morgan dined off:

Judge: “Melanie Cantor, who worked as an agent and publicist at the time, gave evidence about Mr Morgan. Her evidence was not challenged by MGN. She said that she had a close and trusting professional relationship with Mr Morgan and was aware that he had obtained confidential information about her client, Ulrika Jonsson. She said that Mr Morgan always seemed to be the first person to know about events that had recently happened, on a repeated basis.

“She later discovered that there were PI invoices naming her and her associates and over 400 calls to her mobile phone from Ms Weaver, Mr Scott, Mr Buckley and others who have been convicted or found to have been involved in phone hacking. Her name was in Mr Scott’s and Mr Buckley’s Palm Pilots.”

The judge adds: “The inference is an obvious one: Ms Cantor’s phone and the phones of her associates were hacked and the obviously confidential and sensitive information obtained was passed to Mr Morgan, who must have known how it had been obtained and made use of it.”

The Judge then summarises what the evidence shows. It is worthy of note that while the civil standard of proof is “more likely than not”, the Judge states “there is no doubt” which amounts to the criminal standard of proof of “beyond all reasonable doubt”.

He says: “There can be no doubt, therefore, that the editors of the newspapers knew about the VMI and UIG and were in a position to tell Ms Bailey or the board about it, but they obviously did not do so.”

The Judge reiterates this later on: “As I have said, no adverse inference is necessary to resolve the question of whether the editors knew about phone hacking and related UIG. It is clear that they did, and it would have been astonishing if they did not, given the scale on which it was being carried on in the 2000s and the remarkable story lines that it produced. It is also clear that the senior editorial management were fully aware of the fact that PIs were being used at great expense to conduct illegal searches and of the extent of such use.”

However, Morgan’s earlier denials (including sworn denials at the Leveson Inquiry) did include that he did not know about hacking and did not publish articles he knew came from hacking but he has now “reverse-ferreted” on that, but has tried to deceive his audience that his position is the same. It’s too late though. The Judge’s findings make clear that his evidence to Leveson was incorrect and knowingly so. There is a word for that.

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Misleading Beyond Belief

“I wasn’t called as a witness – it’s important for people to know this – by either side in the case. Nor was I asked to provide any statement. I would have very happily agreed to do either or both of those things had I been asked.”

Only MGN could call him as a witness, as whoever calls him (voluntarily or by compulsion) is not allowed to cross-examine him, so the Claimants could never call him – and he knows that.

So it seems he either refused a request from MGN or – as he claims – his erstwhile employer did not ask him. This can only be because they did not want him to testify in their defence. They knew if he gave truthful evidence it would not be helpful to their case. And ethically the lawyers could not take and serve a statement that they knew to be false.

Instead, MGN had no choice but to take the “hit” of not challenging many of the Claimants’ witnesses. Sadly, we were all denied the spectacle of Morgan crumbling under cross-examination. His main technique in interviews – of over-talking his questioner – would not work in Court. Even that strategy fails sometimes, as I was able to show.

“Nor have I had a single conversation with any of the Mirror group lawyers throughout the entire legal process.”

Even this assertion is contradicted – by his own side. The Judge makes clear that MGN has been in touch with him and obtained evidence.

Judge: “It appears from what MGN volunteered about not calling Mr Morgan that he was not invited to give evidence on MGN’s behalf to avoid a “side show” distracting from the key issues at trial, though MGN’s pleaded case does state that MGN had obtained evidence from Mr Morgan about the allegations.”

If it was not an MGN lawyer who asked him for evidence then that would be odd, but he would still be “tap-dancing through the raindrops”.

“So, I wasn’t able to respond to the many false allegations…

…Allegations which the Judge found to be true, and to say the allegations are false are an allegation of perjury against the witnesses the judge found to be truthful…

“…That were spewed about me in court by old foes of mine with an axe to grind…”

Melanie Cantor was an old friend of his, as was Ben Wegg-Prosser and David Seymour. Only Alastair Campbell and Omid Scobie could be said to be “old foes”, and the Judge found them to be credible and their evidence truthful.

“…most of which inexplicably were not even challenged in my absence by the Mirror Group counsel.”

Melanie Cantor and Ben Wegg-Prosser were not even called by MGN for cross-examination. That means they had to accept their evidence entirely. This was because they had no basis to challenge it, arguably because they knew it was true. It is far from “inexplicable”.

Litany of Slurs

“But I note the judge appears to have believed the evidence of Omid Scobie, who lied about me in his new book…”

A contested allegation is not a “lie”. Journalists have sources who may be correct or may not be correct in what they say. Of Messrs Scobie and Morgan, only one stands as a witness of truth by a Judge, and one stands accused by judicial findings of giving false evidence under oath. People in glass houses should put down the shot-gun.

“…and he lied about me in court.” 

This is an allegation of perjury, and because the Judge has found Mr Scobie to be truthful in his evidence, Morgan appears to have a libel death wish.

“…and the whole world now knows him to be a deluded fantasist.”

Morgan descends to mere abuse when he is rattled. Again I give you this.

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“And he believed the evidence of Alastair Campbell, another proven liar  who spun this country into an illegal war.”

Whatever one thinks of Mr Campbell and the Iraq war, it is a false statement that he is a proven liar. He would say that he is not a liar, but objectively it is factually wrong to say it is “proven”.

Again, it is Morgan who was sacked from his job for publishing false allegations about the Iraq war. And it is Morgan whose evidence at the Leveson Inquiry is contradicted by a High Court judgement of fact.

“Finally, I want to say this. Prince Harry’s outrage at media intrusion into the private lives of the royal family is only matched by his own ruthless, greedy and hypocritical enthusiasm for doing it himself. He talked today about the appalling behaviour of the press, but this is a guy who has repeatedly trashed his family in public for hundreds of millions of dollars, even as two of its most senior and respected members were dying, his grandparents. It’s hard to imagine, frankly, more appalling behaviour than that.”

The usual rant which is pure abuse. It should be contrasted with the measured terms of Prince Harry’s statement outside Court.

“As for him saying this is a good day for truth, the Duke has been repeatedly exposed in recent years as someone who wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him around his California-tanned face.”

Prince Harry has never been “exposed” as a liar or perjurer. People in glass houses should not lob grenades.

“He demands accountability for the press, but refuses to accept any for himself for smearing the royal family – his own family – as a bunch of callous racists…”

Prince Harry did not make this claim – this was a press version of what he said, which was then ascribed to him.

“…without producing a shred of proof to support those disgraceful claims. He also says he’s on a mission to reform the media when it’s become clear his real mission, along with his wife, is to destroy the British monarchy. And I will continue to do whatever I can to stop them. Merry Christmas.”

And like the coward he is – Morgan scurried away, taking no questions. 

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