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23 October 2012 - 9:14pm | posted by | 0 comments

Stormy weather in the US for UK media stars Piers and Mark

Piers Morgan: firm demialsPiers Morgan: firm demials

For British media figures hoping for a balmy new life in the USA, the weather has taken a turn for the worse this week .

Both Mark Thompson, former BBC Director general now ensconced as boss of the New York Times and Piers Morgan , CNN frontman at the heart of the presidential election, must be wondering what's hit them.

Phone-hacking with alleged links to Piers's Daily Mirror is back in the news with court actions raised in London. And if Mark Thompson hasn't had a phone call yet asking about Jimmy Savile, I think he can expect one.

Just when the NoW phone-hacking scandal seemed to have expended its last belch of awfulness , four cases have emerged in which Trinity Mirror, publishers of Piers's old paper the Daily Mirror, are being sued over phone -hacking alleged to have happened when Piers was editor.

Lawyer Mark Lewis says he is acting for former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, Abbie Gibson, a former nanny for the Beckham family, and Garry Flitcroft, former captain of Blackburn Rovers.

Piers Morgan has always been at the forefront of the hacking story. In his book The insider he warns celebrities how easily their phone can be hacked. He has always insisted he personally was never involved in hacking.

As the NotW story snowballed , his denials of personal involvement became increasingly vehement, reassuringly for his American bosses at CNN.

"For the record, in my time at the News of the World and the Mirror, I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone."

You can't be much more categoric than that.

Trinity Mirror says it has no knowledge of the London High Court action. If the cases proceeds, it is possible some might be settled out of court, as many have been with News International.

But Trinity Mirror has always said, "All our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] code of conduct and we have seen no evidence to suggest otherwise." Their lawyers will want to know about the quality of any evidence.

If a case goes to court, could Piers be called to testify?

The alleged linkage is not new. In 2011 the Daily Mirror was accused in Parliament of using phone-hacking to land its 2002 scoop on Eriksson's affair with Ulrika Jonsson.

In a Parliamentary debate on phone-hacking, Lib Deb MP Adrian Sanders claimed 'the Daily Mirror, when under the auspices of Piers Morgan, is suspected of using voicemail interception to reveal Sven-Goran Eriksson's affair with Ulrika Jonsson".

Former Mirror editor Richard Wallace, told the Leveson Inquiry that phone-hacking "might well have" taken place when he was the paper's showbiz editor without his knowledge.

He also said it was possible that a story the newspaper ran about Eriksson's affair with Ulrika Jonsson in 2002 might have come from the interception of voicemail messages.

But Piers Morgan, who was editor of the paper at the time, flatly denied intercepting Jonsson's messages when he appeared before Leveson in a video link.

He repeatedly denied any knowledge of illegally intercepting voicemails, computer hacking, commissioning private investigators or paying police officers for information.

Morgan instead insisted that "ethical determinations were interwoven"into his role as editor and were an "omnipresent aspect of daily professional life".

Not that Morgan was without sympathy for those accused of phone hacking.

After former NoW royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed, Morgan told Press Gazette 'As for Clive Goodman, 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 said he was simply commenting on 'the rumour at the time' and had been out of Fleet Street for several years when he made the comments.

In a GQ magazine interview in 2007 he said phone hacking was "widespread" and that "loads of newspaper journalists were doing it" .

All that appeared on phone-hacking in his book The Insider , said  Morgan , was a warning HE  was giving about the dangers of phones   being hacked, the technique was so easy.

He said, "I have never hacked a phone and none of the stories we obtained  were as a result of  phone hacking."

As for former BBC chief Mark Thompson, the decisions taken in London concerning last year's sidelined Jimmy Savile Newsnight Expose happened on his watch . An interview he has given to the New York Times is an important contribution to that debate.

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