'No evidence' Martin Bashir was rehired as part of Diana interview cover-up, BBC review finds

14 June 2021, 15:00

Martin Bashir and Princess Diana in the BBC Panorama interview in 1995.
Martin Bashir and Princess Diana in the BBC Panorama interview in 1995. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

A new review by the BBC has concluded that there is "no evidence" that disgraced journalist Martin Bashir was rehired to the broadcaster in 2016 as part of a cover-up.

The landmark Dyson report released in May found Bashir used fabricated bank statements and "deceived and induced" Princess Diana's brother to secure his 1995 bombshell interview with her.

Bashir left the BBC for ITV in 1998, but was rehired to the national broadcaster in September 2016 and promoted to religion editor in 2018.

An interview panel unanimously selected Bashir, after eight candidates applied for the job.

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But a new inquiry led by Ken MacQuarrie on Monday concluded that he was satisfied that "the recruitment process for the religious affairs correspondent was targeted at finding the right person for the role".

"Although there were some shortcomings in the process by which he was re-employed, I am satisfied that that he was ultimately appointed because his knowledge and experience were considered to be the best match to the requirements for the role at that time."

He continued: "I have found no evidence that Martin Bashir was re-hired to contain and/or cover up the events surrounding the 1995 Panorama programme.

"In my view, that theory is entirely unfounded."

The report also found Lord Tony Hall, the former director-general of the BBC, did not play a part in the decision to rehire Martin Bashir.

Lord Hall resigned from his role as chairman of the National Gallery in May after the Dyson report was released. He was head of news at the time of the interview in 1995 and in 1996 led an internal inquiry into allegations of deceit.

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Current BBC Director-General Tim Davie thanked Mr MacQuarrie for the latest report, which he said found the recruitment process "was conducted in good faith".

He added: "It is clear we need to reflect on the findings to ensure consistent best practice is applied in our recruitment."

However, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight MP said they are "deeply concerned" by the revelations in the BBC's report into the decision to rehire Bashir.

"That the BBC considered rehiring Martin Bashir when there were high level doubts over his integrity stretches incredulity to breaking point," he said.

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"By this point, as the Dyson report concluded, senior members of the BBC knew that Bashir had lied about the use of faked bank statements to gain access to Princess Diana.

"If the BBC considered him 'unanimously' the best candidate, where was the due diligence that should have prevented the corporation from rehiring a former member of staff who had not told a very important truth? Where were senior level discussions?

"What is disturbing is that it appeared the BBC wanted to interview Bashir at the outset, regardless of who else applied for the job. And, not only did they re-employ him, they promoted him.