BBC complained about Bashir’s ‘legally actionable’ conduct to ITV in 2000

A senior BBC executive made an official complaint over Martin Bashir’s “legally actionable” behaviour after he moved to a rival network, raising serious questions over why the corporation rehired him in 2016.

In 2000, the BBC accused Mr Bashir of “crossing the line of acceptability” by discrediting his former colleagues on Panorama “with accusations that are inaccurate, defamatory and professionally damaging”.

In the letter, obtained by Channel 4 News, Mr Bashir is accused of attempting to sabotage a Panorama report into the Harold Shipman murders by telling potential interviewees that the BBC journalists were “liars and could not be trusted”. A representative of some of Shipman’s victims was falsely told that Panorama was intending to reveal alleged financial irregularities if he refused to give an interview. As a result, a number of people withdrew their support for the Panorama programme.

Peter Horrocks, the then head of BBC current affairs, wrote: “The idea that it could be alleged that [name redacted] was less trustworthy than Martin Bashir would be laughable, were it not damaging to… reputation.”

Mr Horrocks complained that Mr Bashir had also made false accusations against Panorama which was investigating the far-right nail bomber David Copeland. It led to Scotland Yard accusing the BBC of withholding evidence and damaging relations between the two.

Mr Horrocks urged Granada Television’s then managing editor to “take steps to control Martin in the future”.

Mr Bashir, 57, is currently off sick from the BBC but is facing an independent inquiry into allegations he had bank statements falsified to trick Princess Diana into giving him an interview. MPs are considering launching their own select committee inquiry but decided on Tuesday to delay its start until the BBC investigation gets under way.

At the time of the interview in 1995, Mr Bashir was working for Panorama. He left the flagship programme to join ITV’s rival show Tonight with Trevor McDonald, prompting Mr Horrocks to write the letter after becoming aware of his alleged misbehaviour. 

The disclosure of the letter from Mr Horrocks raises further serious questions about the due diligence undertaken by the BBC in rehiring Mr Bashir in 2016 and subsequently promoting him to religious affairs editor. The BBC’s then head of news Tony Hall – now Lord Hall – conducted an internal investigation in 1996 into the Diana interview and the forged bank statement and concluded Mr Bashir was an “honest man”. Lord Hall was director-general when Mr Bashir rejoined the BBC in 2016.

Mr Bashir has let it be known he is too ill to currently offer comment having suffered badly from Covid-19 in the spring and subsequently undergone a quadruple bypass in September.

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