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Ex-Mirror CEO unaware of phone-hacking, she tells Harry trial

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, leaves the High Court in London, Britain March 27, 2023.

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) - The former chief executive of the publisher of Britain's Daily Mirror said phone-hacking carried out by journalists she employed was concealed from her, as she gave evidence on Monday in a lawsuit brought by Prince Harry against the newspaper.

Sly Bailey – chief executive of Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People, between 2003 and 2012 – told London's High Court that allegations of unlawful information-gathering were "a matter of great regret".

"It is pretty devastating as a chief executive, actually, to be sitting here and listening to this, and I am deeply regretful and I do apologise on behalf of the company," she said.

"I hope that people will understand that I had no knowledge of these activities."

Harry, King Charles' younger son, and more than 100 others are suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), accusing its titles of phone-hacking and other unlawful behaviour between 1991 and 2011, with the approval of senior executives.

MGN, which is owned by Reach and was known as Trinity Mirror until 2018, strongly denies the allegations.

Bailey said in her witness statement that "despite our robust governance systems, a number of people on the editorial side of the national titles concealed their unlawful activities from me and from other colleagues".

Pressed repeatedly by David Sherborne, a lawyer representing Harry and other claimants, about what she knew of unlawful activity at her papers and what action she had taken to address it, she said she was not specifically aware of allegations while she was chief executive.

Sherborne referred to a 2006 article in which a former MGN reporter was quoted as saying that "many of the Daily Mirror's stories would come from hacking into a celebrity's voicemail".

The lawyer said to Bailey that the allegations must have been discussed by Trinity Mirror's board.

Bailey said that she could not remember that they were, and in response to questions about why executives had not investigated further after three reporters were questioned but not charged, she replied: "I'm not a policeman."

She and her and former board members had been subjected to "terrible smears", she added.

The case, due to last around seven weeks, is initially focusing on generic allegations against MGN before turning to the specific claims of Harry and three other test cases.

Harry is due to give evidence himself in person in early June, the first British royal to do so since the 19th century.

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; editing by John Stonestreet)