The BBC has made an “unconditional apology” after a report concluded deceptive methods were used to get an exclusive interview with the late Princess Diana.
The 1995 interview on the BBC's Panorama programme was conducted by former BBC journalist Martin Bashir, who used fake bank statements to get access to the princess, according to a report by Lord Dyson, a former senior judge.
According to the report, Bashir commissioned a fake bank statement showing payments from a consultancy firm and News International into the bank account of Alan Waller, a former employee of Diana’s brother Charles Spencer.
He showed these to Earl Spencer in September 1995, and then a few days later showed him more bank statements displaying payments into the accounts of Diana’s and Prince Charles’ private secretaries.
Dyson writes in the report “it is likely that these statements were created by Mr Bashir and contained information that he had fabricated”.
Using these bank statements, Bashir was able to convince Earl Spencer to arrange a meeting with Princess Diana, after which he convinced her to do the interview.
Bashir subsequently lied to BBC bosses about the situation, while press investigations started into how the BBC obtained the exclusive interview, which won the BBC and Bashir much critical acclaim at the time.
The report also criticised a subsequent BBC investigation into the matter, calling it “flawed and woefully ineffective.”
'Fear, paranoia and isolation'
Diana's two sons, Prince William and Harry, Duke of Sussex, both sharply criticised the BBC in strongly-worded statements following the release of the report.
"It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said," William said. "The interview was a major contributor to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.
"It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her," he added.
His brother said meanwhile that "the ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life."
"To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step toward justice and truth," Harry wrote. "Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these — and even worse — are still widespread today."
"Then, and now, it's bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication," he also said.
'Full and unconditional apology'
BBC Director-General Tim Davie said: “I would like to thank Lord Dyson. His report into the circumstances around the 1995 interview is both thorough and comprehensive. The BBC accepts Lord Dyson’s findings in full.
“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the process for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect. We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.
“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured in this way. The BBC should have made greater efforts to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew.
“While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”
Martin Bashir resigned from his role as the BBC's religion editor earlier this month, with the corporation saying it was due to health issues.