The BBC has paid damages to the former nanny of Prince William and Prince Harry following the investigation into how Martin Bashir secured his world-famous interview with Princess Diana.
The journalist made “fabricated” and “false and malicious” allegations that Tiggy Legge-Bourke, now Alexandra Pettifer, had an affair with Prince Charles, the High Court heard on Thursday. The BBC gave her a public apology.
The broadcaster then also pledged never to air or license out footage of the 1995 Panorama interview again.
If it wants to broadcast short extracts for a journalistic purpose, the BBC executive committee will have to clear it first, director-general Tim Davie said.
What did the Dyson report find about the BBC Bashir interview?
The Dyson report published last year found that Panorama journalist Bashir had used “deceitful behaviour” in a “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines to secure the interview in which Diana said there were “three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded” in a reference to Camilla Parker Bowles, who Charles later married.
The report also found the initial investigation into the circumstances of the interview soon after it aired, led by then-director of news Lord Tony Hall, was “woefully ineffective” while whistleblowing staff suffered after he pledged to “work to deal with leakers and remove persistent troublemakers” from Panorama.
Davie said today that since publication of that report the corporation has been “working with those who suffered as a result of the deceitful tactics used”.
The BBC has already paid out to Mark Killick, a former Panorama journalist who raised concerns about how Bashir secured the interview and was subsequently forced off the programme, and Matt Wiessler, the graphic designer who mocked up faked documents for Bashir without knowing what they would be used for and was later blacklisted by the corporation.
After successfully settling her defamation claim, Pettifer said on Thursday she was “disappointed that it needed legal action for the BBC to recognise the serious harm I have been subjected to.
“Sadly, I am one of many people whose lives have been scarred by the deceitful way in which the BBC Panorama was made and the BBC’s subsequent failure to properly investigate the making of the programme.
“The distress caused to the royal family is a source of great upset to me.
“I know first-hand how much they were affected at the time, and how the programme and the false narrative it created have haunted the family in the years since.
“Especially because, still today, so much about the making of the programme is yet to be adequately explained.”
BBC pays substantial damages over Bashir Diana interview
Davie said: “The BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mrs Pettifer and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise publicly to her, to The Prince of Wales, and to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, for the way in which Princess Diana was deceived and the subsequent impact on all their lives.
“It is a matter of great regret that the BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the programme when there were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly.
“Instead, as The Duke of Cambridge himself put it, the BBC failed to ask the tough questions. Had we done our job properly Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, The Royal Family and our audiences down.”
Louise Prince of Harbottle & Lewis, representing Pettifer, told the High Court the former nanny was “relieved that the BBC accepts that the allegations are completely untrue and without any foundation whatsoever.
“She is also pleased that the BBC has agreed to apologise unreservedly… in order to assist her in repairing the substantial harm it has caused her.
“The BBC has agreed to pay to her a substantial sum of damages… It has also agreed to pay her legal costs.”
BBC vows not to air Bashir Diana interview again
Last year the BBC wrote to the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Diana’s brother Charles, Earl Spencer to express its regret over the interview.
Davie also said: “Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained I have decided that the BBC will never show the programme again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters.
“It does of course remain part of the historical record and there may be occasions in the future when it will be justified for the BBC to use short extracts for journalistic purposes, but these will be few and far between and will need to be agreed at Executive Committee level and set in the full context of what we now know about the way the interview was obtained. I would urge others to exercise similar restraint.”
The BBC has also already handed back all awards it won in relation to the Panorama programme.
Jonathan Scherbel-Ball of lawyers 5RB on behalf of the BBC told the court: “The BBC accepts that the allegations were wholly baseless, should never have been made, and that the BBC did not, at the time, adequately investigate serious concerns over the circumstances in which the BBC secured the Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales…
“The BBC is extremely sorry for the serious and prolonged harm caused to [Pettifer] and the historical investigative shortcoming.
“It is pleased that the parties have been able to resolve these issues amicably by joining in this statement in open court and by the BBC paying her substantial compensation and legal costs.”
Additional reporting from PA