The BBC has apologised for the methods used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure a bombshell 1995 interview with Britain's Princess Diana after an official inquiry was published.
Bashir used "deceitful behaviour" and was in "serious breach" of the BBC's producer guidelines to secure his Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales, the inquiry has concluded.
The BBC also "fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark" in a subsequent investigation, according to a report by John Dyson.
Bashir breached BBC rules by mocking up fake bank statements and showing them to Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, to gain access to the princess, the report said.
In response to Dyson's findings, Bashir apologised, saying the faking of bank statements was "an action I deeply regret" but added he felt it had "no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview".
Diana's son Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge said he was left with "indescribable sadness" to know the corporation's shortcomings had "contributed significantly" to Diana, Princess of Wales' state of mind in the final years of her life.
"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," the he said.
A statement on today's report of The Dyson Investigation pic.twitter.com/uS62CNwiI8— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 20, 2021
In a separate statement Prince Harry said: "The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life."
Diana's brother Earl Spencer told a new Panorama programme that the consequences of Diana's decision to do the interview contributed to her death in a car crash in Paris on August 31 1997.
The BBC's current director-general Tim Davie has said the corporation accepts "in full" the findings of Dyson’s report into the 1995 Panorama interview.
Dyson, the former master of the rolls and head of civil justice, was appointed to look into the circumstances surrounding the 1995 interview, during which Diana famously spoke about her "crowded marriage".
Davie said in a statement: "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 effort 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."
Meanwhile, former director-general of the BBC Tony Hall has said he was "wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt" and apologised that a BBC investigation into the matter "fell well short of what was required".
Hall was director of BBC news and current affairs when the Diana interview was screened.
In a statement to the PA news agency, he said: "I have read Lord Dyson's report, and I accept that our investigation 25 years ago into how Panorama secured the interview with Princess Diana fell well short of what was required.
"In hindsight, there were further steps we could and should have taken following complaints about Martin Bashir's conduct.
"I was wrong to give Martin Bashir the benefit of the doubt, basing that judgment as I did on what appeared to be deep remorse on his part.
"Throughout my 35-year career at the BBC, I have always acted in ways I believe were fair, impartial and with the public interest front and centre.
"While Lord Dyson does not criticise my integrity, I am sorry that our investigation failed to meet the standards that were required."
Diana's now infamous Panorama interview in 1995 sent shockwaves through the monarchy with details about the state of her marriage to Prince Charles.
Diana's brother, Earl Spencer claimed that in the weeks before the programme, Bashir showed him forged bank statements that related to alleged payments made to his sister’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson and another former royal household member by the security services.
The documents falsely suggested the individuals were being paid for keeping the princess under surveillance.
He also showed him mocked-up documents, relating to a former employee of the earl, that Bashir also used as he tried to gain access to the princess.
In 1996 the BBC held an internal investigation which examined the mocked-up documents relating to the earl's former employee, as it tried to determine whether or not the princess had been misled, with a key piece of evidence, a note from Diana, suggesting she had not.
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Source: Press Association