The BBC is under scrutiny as it faces a criminal investigation over accusations that it withheld documents related to Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Diana, the Princess of Wales. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed that its criminal investigations team is examining a complaint asserting that the BBC violated the Freedom of Information Act 2000, with potential consequences including an unlimited fine upon successful prosecution.
Last week, a judge strongly criticized the BBC for not releasing numerous emails pertaining to the circumstances surrounding Mr. Bashir’s securing of the Panorama interview. In that interview, Princess Diana famously stated, “there were three of us in this marriage,” referring to Prince Charles’s then-mistress Camilla.
The emails were requested by journalist Andy Webb, who alleges that the BBC breached the Freedom of Information Act—an accusation that the BBC denies. Martin Bashir officially resigned from the BBC in 2021 after revelations that he secured the Panorama interview through deception and forged documents.
The BBC, in response to Mr. Webb’s request, provided a 67-page dossier detailing its internal investigation into Mr. Bashir’s methods from 1995 and 1996 but withheld over 3,000 emails, citing Mr. Bashir’s alleged serious health condition as a reason for being unable to discuss the matter with him.
Judge Brian Kennedy recently ordered the BBC to release more emails, criticizing the corporation for being “inconsistent, erroneous, and unreliable” in handling the initial request. The ICO has now referred Mr. Webb’s case to its criminal investigations team.
The BBC continues to reject the allegations, asserting that Martin Bashir’s health issues prevented disclosure in 2020, as consultation on the matter was not possible. The corporation maintains that all relevant documentation was provided to the Lord Dyson inquiry, which concluded and was published in 2021.
Mr. Webb argues that the release of these internal emails is overwhelmingly in the public interest. The inquiry led by Lord Dyson found that Martin Bashir used deception to secure the interview and subsequently lied to BBC managers. The criminal investigation adds another layer to the ongoing controversy surrounding the historic Diana interview.