Leveson Inquiry: Heather Mills denies allowing voicemail access.
- 9 February 2012
- From the section UK
The former wife of Sir Paul McCartney has denied authorising former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan to access her voicemail messages.
Heather Mills told the Leveson Inquiry about an incident in 2001 after she returned from a holiday in India.
She said after a row he left her 25 voicemail messages, including a "ditty", begging forgiveness.
Ms Mills said another journalist later told her he knew there had been problems and mentioned the song.
Mr Morgan, now a chat show host, has previously told the inquiry he listened to a voicemail message left for Mills by Sir Paul, but refused to say when or where because he wanted to protect a "source".
Ms Mills said she had never authorised Morgan or anybody else to access or listen to her voicemails.
"I couldn't quite believe that he would even try to insinuate, a man that has written nothing but awful things about me for years, would relish in telling the court if I had played a voicemail message to him," she said.
Ms Mills, whose statement has now been posted online, said press coverage of her was quite favourable after the accident in 1993 when she lost her leg.
But she said: "As soon as I met him (Sir Paul) it became 'one-legged bitch' and 'cow' and every awful word you can think of."
'Lies and abuse'
She criticised the "postage stamp-sized apologies" which newspapers were forced to make following inaccurate stories about her.
Ms Mills said: "My personal view is that until there is a disincentive to write lies and abusive comments it's going to continue.
"If you know you are going to be embarrassed by front page apologies every week I think you'd stop."
She said tiny apologies, years later, were inadequate and added: "The public believe the (original) lies."
She also called for all photographers to be licensed and newspapers should only be able to use licensed photographers.
Earlier former News of the World (NoW) news editor Ian Edmondson agreed with Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, that there was a "culture of bullying" at the NoW.
When asked if ex-NoW editor Colin Myler was part of that culture, Mr Edmondson agreed he was, but said as he was awaiting an employment tribunal against News International and did not wish to go into detail.
Mr Jay asked Mr Edmondson about the decision to rebrand private investigator Derek Webb as a journalist, complete with a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) press card.
He admitted it was a "sham" but he said Mr Webb's surveillance experience was valuable and attempts to use journalists to conduct surveillance had not been successful in the past because they were not properly trained.
Mr Edmondson said he believed Mr Myler and News International lawyer Tom Crone were aware of the "pretence".
He was later asked about reporter Neville Thurlbeck's attempts to contact two women who were involved in the attempt to expose Formula 1 boss Max Mosley over a sado-masochistic sex session.
Mr Edmondson, whose statement to the inquiry has now been published on the Leveson Inquiry website, said that on reflection the emails read like "threats".
Mr Thurlbeck, who had told the inquiry Mr Edmondson had drafted the emails for him, later tweeted: "I stand by my statement to Leveson. And my memo to Myler last Feb on the matter and which he accepted without contradiction."
Earlier the founder of one of the world's biggest photography agencies has told the Leveson Inquiry he follows the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) code.
Darryn Lyons, who set up Big Pictures, said he had no reason to believe paparazzi he uses acted unethically.
He also accused celebrities and their public relations people of using paparazzi as a "publicity tool" to "raise their profile".
Also appearing on Thursday was Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the NUJ, who said she found it "staggering" News International sought out a NUJ press card for Mr Webb, because it "does not even let the union's officials across its threshold".
The company has its own union, the News International Staff Association.
Ms Stanistreet told the Leveson Inquiry journalists should have a "conscience clause" allowing them to refuse something unethical.
She also told the inquiry she had interviewed 40 journalists about ethics and bullying, 12 of whom allowed her to record them in a document which she presented to Lord Justice Leveson.
One of those journalists was a former NoW reporter who said there was a "sexist and degrading" culture at the NoW and junior reporters had to do stunts, including dressing up in meat to imitate singer Lady GaGa.
At this point Lord Leveson interrupted proceedings to say: "I would like to repeat that I consider a great majority of the journalism in this country is very much in the public interest and a very great credit. That is not to say there is not some which, given the evidence, of which I will take a different view."
He said: "The mere fact we are focusing on poor behaviour... should not be taken as a view that this is what I think of the world."
Ms Stanistreet said the NUJ was also completely opposed to the idea of journalists needing licences to practice their profession.
She also claimed the increasing "casualisation" of the industry may have reduced the ability for individual journalists to resist pressure to carry out unethical activities.
The other witnesses due to give evidence on Thursday are PR guru Max Clifford and Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, who is being recalled.