* Trinity Mirror says being investigated by London police
* Over whether firm criminally liable for alleged hacking
* Widens investigation from individual journalists
* Rupert Murdoch's UK business already being investigated
* Trinity Mirror shares fall 2.5 percent
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, Sept 12 British police are investigating
whether Sunday Mirror newspaper publisher Trinity Mirror
is criminally liable for alleged phone hacking by former
journalists, widening a probe that had centred on Rupert
Murdoch's News Corp.
Trinity Mirror said on Thursday it was being investigated by
London's Metropolitan police and it was too soon to say how the
matter might progress.
The practice of phone hacking by journalists to illegally
obtain material for stories came to light two years ago at News
Corp's now closed News of the World title.
Police arrested four former journalists from the Sunday
Mirror tabloid in March - the first arrests related to a title
outside Murdoch's stable - and said they were looking into a
suspected conspiracy at Trinity Mirror's Mirror Group unit
between 2003 and 2004 to hack into voicemails.
The editor of Trinity Mirror's other Sunday tabloid, the
People, James Scott, and his deputy, Nick Buckley, were two of
the people arrested.
Thursday's news widens the investigation from individual
journalists to the company itself, following a similar pattern
at Murdoch's British newspaper business, now renamed News UK.
"The group does not accept wrongdoing within its business
and takes these allegations seriously," Trinity Mirror said in a
Jonathan Coad, media lawyer at the firm Lewis Silkin, said
that in certain circumstances companies could be charged with
criminal offences based on offences committed by their employees
in the course of their work.
"On basic legal principles, the police must firstly
establish that the criminal activity was undertaken by Mirror
employees during the course of their employment," he said.
"The second element they will have to establish is that
senior management at Mirror Group Newspapers knew of and at
least turned a blind eye to, or more particularly endorsed, this
Shares in Trinity Mirror, which plunged to a four-month low
of 81.5 pence in March following the arrests of individual
journalists before gradually recovering, were down 2.5 percent
at 125.4 pence by 1105 GMT.
London police are already investigating Murdoch's News UK
for possible criminal violations over allegations of
phone-hacking and illegal payments to public officials by its
journalists. News Corp has said it is aware of the police
inquiry but has given no further details.
Dozens of current or former employees of the Murdoch
newspapers have been arrested.
Among them are two former News of the World editors, Rebekah
Brooks and Andy Coulson, who are due to go on trial on Oct. 28
along with other defendants.
After leaving the News of the World, Coulson went on to work
as Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman, while Brooks, a
friend of Cameron, rose to be chief executive of Murdoch's
entire British newspaper business.
On Thursday, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said Ben
O'Driscoll, a former deputy news editor at News UK's Sun
tabloid, had been charged with authorising illegal payments
worth 5,000 pounds ($7,900) to public officials for celebrity
On Sept. 3, former Sunday Mirror and News of the World
journalist Dan Evans was charged with four offences in
connection with phone hacking, including one in the period
between 2003 and 2005.
He left the Sunday Mirror at the end of 2004.