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World News

15 Jun 2021

Ex-BBC boss Tony Hall 'sorry for hurt' to royals over Martin Bashir scandal

Ex-BBC boss Tony Hall 'sorry for hurt' to royals over Martin Bashir scandal
BBC:

Former BBC director general Tony Hall has said he is "sorry for the hurt caused" to the Royal Family by the scandal surrounding Martin Bashir's 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

At the time, Lord Hall investigated Bashir's faking of bank documents after questions arose about whether Bashir had used them to secure the scoop.

"I trusted a journalist. I gave him a second chance. We, the team, gave him a second chance, and that trust was abused and was misplaced," Lord Hall told a committee of MPs on Tuesday.

Lord Hall was head of news at the time, and his investigation concluded that Bashir was an "honest and an honourable man".

But a recent report by former judge Lord Dyson criticised Bashir's "deceitful" actions and Lord Hall's "woefully ineffective" investigation.

After the Dyson Report was published, Prince William, Diana's son, said "the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation".He said: "She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions."

Lord Hall said on Tuesday that Bashir had ended up "contrite and in tears" when he interviewed him about the matter at the time.

"He appeared to us that he was contrite, inexperienced and out of his depth and that is why in the end rather than sacking him, and I can see the reasons for that, he was given a second chance," he said.

'A failure of morality'

The committee's chairman Julian Knight MP said Lord Hall's decision to blacklist the graphic designer who mocked up the documents and not sack Bashir "wasn't just a failure of management, it was a failure of morality".

Mr Knight also said it was "utterly extraordinary" that the BBC would re-hire a "known liar" as religious affairs correspondent in 2016, when Lord Hall was director general.

"We didn't know 25 years ago the scale of what Martin Bashir had done to gain access to the Princess of Wales, through [her brother] Earl Spencer," Lord Hall said.

"If we knew then what we know now, of course he wouldn't have been re-hired."

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