The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has declared that it was not responsible for the disastrous Newsnight child abuse report of 2 November but it has expressed regret for seconding journalist Angust Stickler to the programme without retaining editorial control.
The Bureau has faced questions over his future in the wake of the Newsnight/Lord McAlpine affair and editor Iain Overton has resignedin the wake of it.
The Trustees of the Bureau yesterday published a statement following their own investigation into the matter.
They said "the Trustees consider that a serious mistake was made in agreeing to the secondment of a member of its staff to the BBC, without retaining the necessary degree of editorial control, and are taking action to ensure this does not happen again".
They added: "It is clear that there was a failure within the Bureau of editorial and managerial controls and the surveillance thereof by the trustees. For this the trustees accept responsibility and add their regrets for these failings."
According to the Bureau, the body's editorial advistory board is normally briefed by the managing editor on a monthly basis about active projects.The board held this meeting on 24 October and say there was no mention of any story involving child abuse. The trustees and board say they were only aware of the involvement of a Bureau employee in the Newsnight report on the afternoon of 2 November as reports began to spread online.
The Newsnight report in question was introduced as being by "Angus Stickler from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who has been covering what went on at these homes for more than a decade for the BBC".
According to the Bureau, on 25 October Stickler was emailed by a "senior contact and old colleague at the BBC who referred to allegations Tom Watson MP had made about the Waterhouse inquiry in the House of Commons on the day before".
Acting deputy editor of Newsnight Liz Gibbons then discussed a possible story with Stickler "over the next few days", the Bureau said, and it was agreed that he would be seconded to work with Newsnight for a fee of £3,250.
The Bureau said: "The Trustees consider that it was a serious mistake to allow the secondment of Mr Stickler on these terms, to help make a programme in which he would be identified as a Bureau employee but over which the Bureau would have no control. The subject matter was not of the kind that the Bureau had been set up to investigate.
"The Trustees are satisfied, however, that Mr Stickler did not take to the BBC any information, notes or records belonging to or developed at the Bureau. All his information on the child abuse inquiry had been acquired years earlier, when he was employed by the BBC. His involvement in the course of the Newsnight programme had very little connection with the Bureau; which was not contacted for any assistance or editorial advice during the making of the programme."
Although former Bureau editor Iain Overton (pictured above)did not oversee the programme, he did issue the following Twitter message on the afternoon of 2 November: "If all goes well we've got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile."
The Bureau said:"The Trustees consider that he made a serious error of judgment, and risked the reputation of the Bureau, when he tweeted about the programme on the day of its transmission, both by exaggerating the Bureau’s role in the story and by releasing information (that was itself wrong) prematurely."
In conclusion, the Bureau says in its statement: "Mr Stickler was seconded to the BBC pursuant to an agreement whereby they paid for his secondment to help make a programme over which the BBC had complete control and which was subject to editing, vetting and direction by their lawyers and editors. The Bureau had no responsibility for the making or transmission of the programme.
"The Trustees are satisfied that throughout these events, no other member of the editorial team, other than Mr Overton and Mr Stickler was involved with the story in any way. As has been reported earlier, Mr Overton has resigned."
The Trustees said they intend to publish a "full narrative of events and evidence" when the BBC has completed its inquiry".
Repeating their apology to Lord McAlpine, the Trustees said: "They further express their personal regret and disappointment with the Bureau’s involvement in recent events."