Former tabloid editor Piers Morgan has told the Leveson inquiry that he “did not believe” he had listened to illegally-obtained voice messages.
Mr Morgan, who was editor of the News of the World and the Daily Mirror, told the inquiry that “ethical considerations” were “interwoven” into his work.
He said he was unaware of any phone hacking at the Daily Mirror under his leadership – and had “no reason” to believe that hacking was going on.
Mr Morgan told the inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson that he had listened to a voicemail message left for Heather Mills – former wife of pop star Sir Paul McCartney.
He repeatedly refused to disclose the “source” of the message. But he said Sir Paul had “stated as a fact” that “Lady Heather Mills McCartney” had recorded conversations and given them to journalists.
Mr Morgan, who is based in America and hosts a CNN television show, said he had “little sympathy” with “celebrities who sell their weddings for a million pounds”. He said celebrities were the “last people” who should be protected by a privacy law.
Lord Justice Leveson was told that Mr Morgan became the News of the World’s youngest editor in 1994 at the age of 28 and went on to edit the Daily Mirror between 1995 and 2004.
Mr Morgan, who gave evidence to the hearing in London from the United States via a video link, was questioned by Lord Justice Leveson and Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry.
He said he was unaware of any phone hacking going on at the Daily Mirror under his leadership, adding: “To the best of my recollection, I do not believe so.”
Lord Justice Leveson asked Mr Morgan: “Have you listened to recordings of what you knew to be illegally obtained voicemail messages?”
Mr Morgan replied: “I don’t believe so, no.”
Mr Jay asked about a recording of a voicemail message left by Sir Paul for Ms Mills when the couple were suffering problems with their marriage.
Mr Morgan refused to say when or where he heard the message – because he wanted to protect a “source”.
Lord Justice Leveson asked: “The only person who would lawfully be able to listen to the message is the lady in question or somebody authorised on her behalf to listen to it. Isn’t that right?” Mr Morgan said he did not know what he was “expected” to say and added: “All we know for a fact about Lady Heather Mills McCartney is that in their divorce case Paul McCartney stated as a fact that she had recorded their conversations and given them to the media.”
Mr Jay asked whether Mr Morgan had hacked the phone of television presenter Ulrika Jonsson, when she was in a relationship with former England soccer manager Sven Goran Eriksson. He denied intercepting her messages.
The inquiry heard that Mr Morgan first made reference to knowing about phone hacking in a diary entry in January 2001.
It read: “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.”
Mr Morgan said he had “no idea” who made him aware of the way messages were hacked.
He was asked for his view on privacy and told the inquiry: “I have very little sympathy with celebrities who sell their weddings for a million pounds – one of the most private days of their lives – and then expect to have privacy if they get caught having affairs.”
The hearing continues.