What Piers Morgan knew about phone hacking – in his own words

<span>Photograph: Independent/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Independent/Alamy

Piers Morgan has faced fresh accusations that he must have known about phone hacking and other illegal behaviour by journalists at the Daily Mirror, the tabloid he edited between 1995 and 2004.

The allegations were made at the high court as part of the latest phone-hacking trial, which is pitting a group of alleged phone-hacking victims – including Prince Harry – against the Mirror’s parent company.

This is what Morgan has previously said about phone hacking, in his own words:

Morgan explaining how voicemail interception worked to Naomi Campbell during a GQ magazine interview in 2007:

“It was pretty well known that if you didn’t change your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, then reporters could ring your mobile, tap in a standard factory setting number and hear your messages. That is not, to me, as serious as planting a bug in someone’s house, which is what some people seem to think was going on.”

Morgan expressing sympathy in 2007 for News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, who was jailed for hacking Prince William’s voicemails:

“I feel a lot of sympathy for a man who has been the convenient fall guy for an investigative practice that everyone knows was going on at almost every paper in Fleet Street for years.”

Morgan describing listening to a voicemail left by Paul McCartney for his then girlfriend Heather Mills, writing in a Daily Mail article in 2006:

“Stories soon emerged that the marriage was in trouble – at one stage I was played a tape of a message Paul had left for Heather on her mobile phone. It was heartbreaking. The couple had clearly had a tiff, Heather had fled to India, and Paul was pleading with her to come back. He sounded lonely, miserable and desperate, and even sang We Can Work It Out into the answerphone.”

Morgan discussing underhand tactics in the British newspaper industry while appearing on Desert Island Discs in 2009:

“A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That’s not to defend it, because obviously you were running the results of their work. I’m quite happy to be parked in the corner of tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to, and I make no pretence about the stuff we used to do.”

(Morgan later said he had been answering a wide-ranging question about journalistic methods and that his answer should not be interpreted as admitting to or condoning illegality.)

Morgan describing his knowledge of how phone hacking worked in 2001, according to his 2005 book The Insider:

“Someone suggested today that people might be listening to my mobile phone messages. Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four-digit code to hear all your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.”

Morgan explaining how journalists were using voicemail interception while being interviewed in 2003 about tabloid tactics by Charlotte Church:

“There was a spate of stories that came out because of mobile phones. Journalists found out that if a celebrity hadn’t changed their pin code, you could access their voicemails just by tapping a number. Are you really going to tell me that journalists aren’t going to do that if they can ring up Charlotte Church’s mobile phone and listen to all her messages? All you have to do is actually change the security number.”

Piers Morgan cross-examined under oath at the Leveson inquiry in 2011:

Robert Jay QC:Have you listened to recordings of what you knew to be illegally obtained voicemail messages?”

Morgan: “I do not believe so, no.”

Jay: “Well, you either did or you didn’t. I don’t think it’s a question of belief.”

Morgan: “No, I did not.”

Jay: “Have you listened to recordings of what you knew to be illegally obtained voicemail messages?”

Morgan: “I do not believe so. To the best of my recollection, I do not believe so.”

Morgan interviewed by the BBC’s Amol Rajan in May 2023 about his knowledge of phone hacking:

“Originally I said I had never hacked a phone, never told anyone to hack a phone, and no stories have been published in the Mirror in my time from the hacking of a phone. Then someone pointed out that you can only know the first two things for sure. All I can talk to is what I know: I never hacked a phone; I wouldn’t know how.

“I made it crystal clear to my journalists that we operate within the law. Can you be absolutely certain what everyone is doing all the time? Of course you can’t, we had hundreds and hundreds of people in the newsroom. I can be certain about what I knew and what I did. No one has ever produced anything to contradict what I’m saying.”