By Dominic Ponsford
Mirror journalists have rejected the suggestion that there was a "culture" of illegal share dealing at the paper as former City Slicker columnist James Hipwell started a three-month prison sentence.
Hipwell, 39, pleaded not guilty after it was alleged that he made £41,000 from a "tip, buy and sell" scam between August 1999 and February 2000 through his City Slickers share-dealing column. Fellow Slicker writer Anil Bhoyrul was sentenced to 180 hours community service after admitting that he breached the Financial Services Act.
During the Hipwell trial, Mr Justice Beatson said there was "a culture of advanced information about tips and share dealing within the office", and added: "I shall take into account the tone of headlines and parts of the column that were determined by the sub-editors."
The British Association of Journalists, which represents Mirror journalists, rejected this suggestion and said: "It’s a pity Mirror management has allowed the impression that dishonest share dealing was widespread on the paper to go unchallenged. For the sake of the reputations of their staff and the integrity of the Daily Mirror, it is not too late for them to put the record straight."
A sentencing hearing for Hipwell heard that because a kidney transplant he received several years ago was failing, his life expectancy was reduced by as much as half.
After sentencing he said: "I accept it was an error of judgement not to disclose that I had bought shares I tipped, and for that I apologise unreservedly."
Hipwell’s solicitor, Harry Travers, is planning to appeal against both the conviction and the sentence.
He said: "We think this is an excessive sentence, wrong in principle and also surprising in view of the fact that the evidence showed incontrovertibly that any investor who had followed the tips overall would have made a handsome profit."
The grounds for appeal against conviction have already been lodged and the grounds for appeal against sentence are due to be lodged this week.