Friday 24 November 2017

PR guru Clifford agreed £1m deal with Brooks after phone was hacked

Ellen Branagh, Ella Pickover and George Coote in London

PR guru Max Clifford told the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking yesterday that he had reached a private settlement amounting to nearly £1m (€1.19m) with Rebekah Brooks after his phone was hacked.

He also revealed that he was warning clients about what they said on the telephone as far back as Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando, "long before phone hacking".

He said the hacking scandal involved a minority of journalists, some of whom were "forced" into it.

Mr Clifford said he not only helped celebrities -- some of whom pay him £200,000-250,000 (€239,00-€298,800) a year -- but people who found themselves in the midst of stories.

"You have got to have a strong PCC (Press Complaints Commission), an independent PCC which is not financed by Fleet Street, which is prepared to be proactive, not just for stars and the so-called celebrities," he said.

The inquiry also heard from Heather Mills, former wife of Paul McCartney, who said that she never authorised former 'News of the World' editor Piers Morgan, or anybody else, to listen to her voicemails.

Chat show host Mr Morgan has previously told the inquiry he listened to a voicemail message left to Ms Mills by Mr McCartney, but refused to say when or where he heard it because he wanted to protect a "source".

Yesterday Ms Mills said she had never authorised Mr Morgan, or anybody, to access or listen to her voicemails, and neither had she ever played a recording to the former editor.

"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 told the inquiry that in early 2001 she and Mr McCartney had argued about a trip she was planning to Gujurat, and while she stayed with a friend in Middlesex he left messages on her voicemail.

"In the morning, when I woke up, there were many messages, but they were all saved messages which I did not quite understand.


"I thought I must have pressed a wrong button. There were about 25 messages all asking for forgiveness of what had happened.

"One of them said, 'please forgive me' and sang a little ditty of one of his songs on the voicemail. So that afternoon I went back and all was forgiven."

She told the hearing she had never recorded the messages and deleted them straight away.

But she said she was then called by a former Trinity Mirror employee saying they had heard the message.

"I said, 'there's no way that you could know that unless you have been listening to my messages'," she told the inquiry. "And he laughed."

She said she threatened to take action if the story was published, and it wasn't.

But in 2006, in the 'Daily Mail', Mr Morgan referred to having listened to the message.

In December, Mr Morgan told the inquiry he would not disclose a source who played him a tape of a message that Mr McCartney left Ms Mills.

He said: "I am not going to discuss where I heard it or who played it to me."

Asked by counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay: "Did you authorise Mr Morgan to access your voicemail?", she replied "never".

Irish Independent

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