Princess Diana’s brother has told a senior police commander that he is considering mounting private criminal prosecutions over the Martin Bashir scandal – a move that will send shockwaves through the BBC.
Earl Spencer was angered by Scotland Yard’s decision last month to drop its probe into events surrounding disgraced Corporation reporter Martin Bashir’s 1995 Panorama interview with Diana.
Bashir showed Earl Spencer forged bank statements to gain access to the Princess and then tricked her by peddling a string of smears and lies, including that Prince William’s watch had been bugged to record her conversations.
William said the BBC’s failures contributed to his mother’s ‘fear, paranoia and isolation’ and hastened his parents’ divorce.
Following a devastating report into the scandal by former Supreme Court Judge Lord Dyson, the Metropolitan Police considered whether to launch an investigation into a range of potential offences, including forgery, misconduct in public office and blackmail.
Princess Diana’s brother Earl Charles Spencer has told a senior police commander that he is considering mounting private criminal prosecutions over the Martin Bashir scandal – a move that will send shockwaves through the BBC
On September 15, the Met said it had ‘not identified evidence of activity that constituted a criminal offence and will therefore be taking no further action.’
But in an email to Commander Alex Murray, the Met’s lead officer for ‘specialist crime’, Earl Spencer criticised the decision as ‘absurd’ and revealed he had received independent legal opinions from two senior lawyers that potential offences should be investigated.
‘I’m afraid this is absurd,’ Earl Spencer wrote. ‘Clearly forgery is in play here; as is the public office offence. I’ve read the Crown Prosecution Service explanation of both crimes online, and there can be no doubt on either point.
‘Further, as you know, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive the generous advice of two QCs who’ve each, independently, advised the same – and both of these are confident on the blackmail point, too.’
Earl Spencer asked who at the Met he could take up the matter with, adding: ‘Or do I have to go to the trouble and expense of mounting private prosecutions?’
His comments will heap pressure on under-fire Met Commissioner Cressida Dick. It also means the BBC could face the hugely damaging prospect of the full details of Bashir’s misconduct – and its cover-up of his actions – being interrogated in a public courtroom.
The Mail on Sunday revealed in 1996 that Bashir had faked private bank documents just weeks before his interview with Diana.
Martin Bashir showed Earl Spencer forged bank statements to gain access to Princess Diana for an interview broadcast in November 1995 (pictured)
The Mail on Sunday revealed in 1996 that Bashir had faked private bank documents just weeks before his interview with Diana
It took another 25 years for the BBC to publicly acknowledge its reporter’s deception. Lord Dyson’s report in May found that an internal inquiry into Bashir in 1996, led by Lord Hall, who was then head of news and current affairs and later became the Corporation’s Director General, had been ‘woefully ineffective’.
Lord Dyson also ruled that the Corporation had covered up what it knew about Bashir’s activities.
The MoS understands Earl Spencer is particularly frustrated that the Met has dismissed his call to launch an investigation of possible misconduct in public office offences, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
To prove such an offence, the prosecution must have evidence to show that the suspect is a so-called ‘public officer’. However, UK courts have been reluctant to provide a detailed definition.
In a letter to Earl Spencer last month, Commander Murray said the Met had taken legal advice from ‘senior prosecutors and senior treasury counsel’.
‘For misconduct in a public office, there is extensive case law that has been examined which describes what may and may not be governmental business and again we have sought advice and do not consider that a criminal offence has taken place by employees of the BBC,’ he said.
Meanwhile, a journalist behind a bombshell Channel 4 documentary into the affair has uncovered new information that raises further serious questions for the BBC.
Andy Webb has discovered that the Corporation mislaid a raft of crucial documents about Bashir’s deception.
Lord Dyson also ruled that the Corporation had covered up what it knew about Bashir’s activities
Writing in this newspaper, Mr Webb reveals the BBC failed to retain a handwritten statement by senior executive Tim Gardam that was passed to the office of Lord Hall.
Mr Gardam’s statement revealed that Bashir had lied to his bosses when he claimed he had not shown the forged bank statements to anyone, including Earl Spencer.
This key document, which was central to Lord Dyson’s damning findings, appears to have been lost by the BBC and came to light only because Mr Gardam kept his own copy and submitted it to the former judge’s inquiry.
The Corporation also appears to have mislaid a statement from Bashir sent to Lord Hall’s office in 1996, in which the disgraced journalist admitted showing the forgeries to Earl Spencer.
The BBC was contacted for a comment last night.