ICO’s criminal investigations team looks into claims BBC withheld documents

Martin Bashir pictured in November 2019 left the BBC in 2021
Image caption,Martin Bashir stepped down from his role at the BBC in 2021

By Ellie Price & Maria Zaccaro

BBC News

The Information Commissioner’s Office says its criminal investigations team is looking into claims the BBC withheld documents relating to Martin Bashir’s 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

Last week, a judge strongly criticised the BBC for failing to release a large number of emails relating to the way Bashir secured the Panorama interview.

They had been requested by a journalist who claims the corporation breached the Freedom of Information Act.

The BBC has rejected the allegations.

Bashir officially stepped down from his job at the BBC in 2021, after it had emerged he had secured the Panorama interview through deception and faking documents.

Journalist Andy Webb made a freedom of information request, asking to see the emails BBC managers sent each other about Bashir over a two-month period in 2020.

The BBC disclosed a small number of messages to Webb, but it has since emerged there were more than 3,000 emails.

The corporation previously said these contained information that was either “irrelevant” or “legally privileged”.

Earlier this month, Judge Brian Kennedy ordered the BBC to release more emails – saying the corporation had been “inconsistent, erroneous and unreliable” in the way it dealt with the initial request.

A spokesperson for the ICO confirmed Mr Webb’s case has since been referred to its criminal investigations team “who are currently reviewing the material provided”.

The BBC said it rejected “these allegations entirely, including any suggestion that the BBC has acted unlawfully”.

A spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly set out to Mr Webb that Martin Bashir’s significant health issues prevented us from disclosing documentation in 2020, as we were unable to consult him on the substantive issues.

“As Mr Webb also knows, all relevant documentation that was in the BBC’s possession was passed to the Lord Dyson inquiry which concluded and was published in 2021.”

Mr Webb previously said http://asiafyas.com/ it was “overwhelmingly in the public interest for these internal emails to be divulged to the public”.

The inquiry found that Bashir used deception to secure the interview and then lied to BBC managers.

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