LONDON - The publisher of Britain's Sunday Mirror tabloid said Thursday it is being investigated by police over alleged phone hacking — the first confirmation that publishers, as well as journalists, could face charges over the misbehaviour that has tarred the country's newspaper business.
Police have been investigating illegal eavesdropping, bribery and other wrongdoing by newspapers since the 2011 revelation that Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World regularly hacked into the cellphone voicemails of celebrities and other public figures.
More than 30 people have been charged, including journalists, police officers and former newspaper executives — but no newspaper publisher has yet been held responsible.
Trinity Mirror PLC said police had informed its newspaper subsidiary, MGN Ltd., "that they are at a very early stage in investigating whether MGN is criminally liable for the alleged unlawful conduct by previous employees in relation to phone hacking on the Sunday Mirror."
The company said it "does not accept wrongdoing within its business" and "takes these allegations seriously."
London's Metropolitan Police would not comment, saying the force did not identify suspects who have not been charged.
The force also declined to comment on reports that Murdoch's News U.K. is under criminal investigation.
The investigation initially focused on Murdoch's papers, but has spread to take in other companies. Several former Trinity Mirror staff have been arrested, including a former editor and deputy editor of the Sunday Mirror. Last week former Sunday Mirror and News of the World journalist Dan Evans was charged with phone hacking.
CNN interviewer Piers Morgan, a former editor of the Sunday title's sister paper, the Daily Mirror, told an inquiry into media ethics that he was not aware of any such wrongdoing while he led the newspaper between 1995 and 2004.
The head of the inquiry, Justice Brian Leveson, called Morgan's claim "utterly unpersuasive," and said hacking may well have occurred at the Mirror in the late 1990s.
Trinity Mirror shares fell almost 4 per cent on the London Stock Exchange after the announcement, before recovering to stand at 1.25 pounds ($1.98), about 2.5 per cent down.