LONDON (Reuters) - Showbusiness reporters at Britain's Daily Mirror could have secretly engaged in phone-hacking in the past, the tabloid's editor and former showbiz editor Richard Wallace told a government-appointed inquiry on Monday.
Wallace, who took over in 2004 as editor of the Mirror, the main rival to Rupert Murdoch's Sun, told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards he was not aware of phone-hacking on the showbiz desk but did not always know the source of stories.
Asked whether phone-hacking could have been going on and hidden from him while he was showbiz editor of the Trinity Mirror-owned title from 1999-2000, Wallace replied: "It might well have been."
On the specific question of whether a 2002 story about an affair between then-England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson could have come from phone-hacking, he answered: "It's possible, yes."
Wallace was head of news at the time.
The Leveson Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron last year at the height of a phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World that prompted Murdoch to shut down the formerly best-selling Sunday tabloid.
The focus of public outrage was at first limited to the Murdoch press but concerns have grown about other titles as the inquiry has heard details from celebrities and journalists of unsavory newsgathering practices elsewhere.
James Hipwell, who was a financial columnist for the Daily Mirror at the time, told the inquiry in December that phone-hacking had seemed to be "perfectly acceptable" to some of the senior editors.
Wallace took over as editor of the Daily Mirror after Piers Morgan, now host of a chat show in the United States, was dismissed for publishing hoax pictures that purported to show Iraqi prisoners being abused by British soldiers.
Morgan has denied phone-hacking but boasted in 2006 of having listened to a voicemail left by Beatle Paul McCartney for his future wife, Heather Mills.
Wallace said he had not heard the message nor had he heard any talk of it at the time.
Trinity Mirror has carried out a review of its editorial controls and procedures and obtained written confirmation from its senior editorial executives that they had not engaged in phone-hacking or bribery.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Steve Addison)