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May 14, 2024

BBC makes ‘substantial payout’ to Diana chauffeur over Martin Bashir slander

Martin Bashir told Princess Diana and her brother that Steve Davies "feeds Today newspaper".

By Charlotte Tobitt

The BBC will pay “substantial” compensation to the late Princess Diana’s former chauffeur over “serious and unfounded” allegations made against him by journalist Martin Bashir.

In a meeting with Diana and her brother Earl Spencer in September 1995, in the lead-up to her infamous Panorama interview, Bashir told them that Steve Davies “feeds Today newspaper… change your chauffeur”. This was a reference to the national daily newspaper Today which closed in November 1995.

Davies was let go from his role as Diana’s chauffeur six months later “without explanation” after “many years” in the role.

According to his law firm Carter-Ruck, Davies recently learned of the comments because they were repeated in season five of Netflix drama The Crown, a fictionalised version of the royal family’s history.

They were first revealed in a document published by the Dyson investigation, which looked into the circumstances leading to Bashir securing the November 1995 interview with Diana. In 2021 the Dyson report found Bashir had used “deceitful behaviour” in a “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines.

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The BBC has now agreed to pay Davies “a sum of compensation for the purposes of vindicating his reputation and attempting to compensate the harm and distress caused to him”, his solicitor Persephone Bridgman Baker of Carter-Ruck told the High Court on Monday.

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The BBC has also agreed to pay his legal costs and issued a public apology for the slander.

Bridgman Baker told the court: “This was a serious and unfounded allegation to the effect that the claimant had been leaking confidential information that he obtained in his role as her chauffeur to the press and that she should terminate his employment as a result. The allegation was fabricated.”

She added: “The claimant continues to work as a chauffeur and his integrity and professionalism are of the utmost importance to him. In all the circumstances the claimant holds the BBC liable for the serious impact the repetition of this false allegation has had.

“For its part on receipt of the claimant’s complaint, the BBC promptly accepted that the allegation was entirely without foundation and should never have been made.”

Samuel Rowe, representing the BBC, told the High Court: “The BBC wishes to publicly apologise to the Claimant for the publication of the allegation and the distress it has caused.

“The BBC accepts that the allegation made about the claimant was and is wholly false and should never have been made, and that it constitutes an attack on the claimant’s reputation both personally and professionally. The BBC accepts that the allegation was likely to have caused HRH the Princess of Wales to doubt the Claimant’s loyalty and professionalism and may well have contributed to the Claimant’s redundancy six months later.

“The BBC is sorry for the distress and harm suffered by the claimant.”

Davies said in a statement: “I am relieved that I have been able to clear my name, and my professional reputation as a chauffeur, through this legal process.

“I was shocked to hear that these false allegations had been made about me almost 30 years ago and were very likely to be the cause of my sudden termination.”

Other BBC legal payouts in relation to the Bashir interview have included:

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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