BBC apologises to Charles, William and Harry for Diana interview scandal

21 July 2022, 10:09 | Updated: 21 July 2022, 13:01

The BBC apologised in the High Court to Princes Charles, William and Harry
The BBC apologised in the High Court to Princes Charles, William and Harry. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

The BBC has issued a public apology in the High Court to Princes Charles, William and Harry for the scandal surrounding rogue reporter Martin Bashir's controversial 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

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The corporation also agreed to pay substantial damages to the Duke of Cambridge's ex-nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke over "false and malicious" allegations about her used to obtain Martin Bashir's Panorama interview with the late Princess of Wales.

Alexandra Pettifer, better known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, appeared at the High Court in London for a public apology from the broadcaster over "fabricated" allegations she had had an affair with the Prince of Wales while working as Charles' personal assistant in 1995.

Alexandra Pettifer former nanny to the Duke of Cambridge outside the High Court
Alexandra Pettifer, former nanny to the Duke of Cambridge, outside the High Court. Picture: Alamy

Her solicitor Louise Prince told the court that the allegations caused "serious personal consequences for all concerned".

Ms Prince, said the assertions included the "very serious and totally unfounded allegations that the claimant was having an affair with HRH Prince of Wales, resulting in a pregnancy which was aborted".

"The allegations were fabricated. They also appeared to exploit some prior false speculation in the media about the claimant and HRH The Prince of Wales."

Read more: Queen leads tributes to Camilla on her 75th birthday

Martin Bashir built a glittering career off the back of the 1995 interview with Diana
Martin Bashir built a glittering career off the back of the 1995 interview with Diana. Picture: Getty

After successfully settling her claim for defamation Ms Pettifer said: "I am 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."

In a statement, Director-General Tim Davie said: “Following publication of the Dyson Report last year we have been working with those who suffered as a result of the deceitful tactics used by the BBC in pursuit of its interview with Diana, Princess of Wales for the Panorama programme in 1995, including the matters that were mentioned in court today in respect of Miss Tiggy Legge-Bourke, now Mrs Alexandra Pettifer.

"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.

Read more: Watchdog to take no further action over £2.5m 'given to Charles' charity in bags'

Prince Charles, Prince William, and Harry, arrive at Aberdeen Station
Prince Charles, Prince William, and Harry, arrive at Aberdeen Station. Picture: Getty

"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.

"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."

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 (Mrs 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."

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