A judge has ordered the BBC to release a large number of emails relating to Martin Bashir’s now infamous interview with Princess Diana in 1995.
The emails all relate to a period in 2020 when the broadcaster was dealing with the scandal surrounding the interview.
They were originally requested via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Andrew Webb – a journalist and filmmaker who has investigated the scandal.
After a tribunal, Judge Brian Kennedy said the company had been “inconsistent, erroneous and unreliable” in the way it dealt with the original request to release material under the FOI Act.
The judge added BBC’s the response was a “cause for serious concern”.
A BBC spokesman said it “fully accepted” that “mistakes have been made in this matter in the past” and it had apologized to Mr Webb.
“We are currently considering the court’s decision carefully and it would not be appropriate to comment while the trial is ongoing,” the spokesman added.
Sir. Webb complained to a tribunal the BBC had failed to release more than 3,000 emails under FOI laws relating to its handling of the scandal in 2020. He described the BBC’s actions as a “cover-up”.
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer criticized the broadcaster for trying to prevent the release of the emails, telling Radio 4: “The issue here is one of people’s integrity at the BBC.”
Bashir’s interview with the princess – once hailed as the scoop of a generation – was broadcast by BBC Panorama in 1995.
In the interview, Diana famously said of her marriage to Charles: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a little crowded.”
Earl Spencer claimed for years that Bashir showed him fake financial documents relating to Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson and another former member of the royal household.
Earl Spencer also said the journalist had told outlandish and untrue stories about the royal family to get Diana involved, including that she was being spied on by the secret services.
The story of the fake documents was first reported in The Mail on Sunday a year after the interview, in 1996.
According to the BBC, Bashir admitted that he had scoffed at the statements, but repeatedly denied showing those documents to Earl Spencer.
It was not until 2020, and an article in The Sunday Times, that the BBC publicly admitted for the first time that Earl Spencer had indeed been shown the fake bank documents by Bashir.
In 2021, an independent inquiry led by Lord Dyson found that the broadcaster covered up “fraudulent behaviour” used by journalist Bashir to secure the interview.
Bashir, meanwhile, was in “serious breach” of BBC producer guidelines when he falsified bank statements and showed them to Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess, Lord Dyson’s report found.
Bashir left the BBC for ITV in 1999, but returned to the broadcaster in 2016, becoming its religious affairs editor. He officially stepped down from his job at the BBC in 2021.
In response to Lord Dyson’s findings, Bashir apologized, saying the falsification of bank statements was “a stupid thing to do and was an act I deeply regret”.
But he added that he felt it had no bearing whatsoever on Princess Diana’s personal choice to take part in the interview.