A judge has ordered the BBC to release a large number of emails in relation to Martin Bashir’s now infamous 1995 interview with Princess Diana.

The emails all relate to a period in 2020 when the broadcaster was dealing with the scandal around the interview.

They were initially requested via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Andrew Webb – a journalist and filmmaker who has been investigating the scandal.

Following a tribunal, Judge Brian Kennedy said the corporation had been “inconsistent, erroneous and unreliable” in the way it dealt with the initial request to release material under FOI law.

The judge added the BBC’s response was a “cause for serious concern”.

A BBC spokesperson said it “fully accepted” that “mistakes have been made in this case in the past” and it had apologised to Mr Webb.

“We are currently considering the tribunal’s decision carefully and it would not be appropriate to comment whilst the legal proceedings are ongoing,” the spokesperson added.

Mr Webb complained to a tribunal the BBC had failed to release more than 3,000 emails under FOI laws, related to its handling of the scandal in 2020. He described the BBC’s actions as a “cover up”.

Diana’s brother Earl Spencer criticised the broadcaster for trying to prevent the release of the emails, telling Radio 4: “The problem here is one of the integrity of people at the BBC.”

Martin Bashir in 2019

Bashir’s interview with the princess – once hailed as the scoop of a generation – was broadcast by BBC Panorama in 1995.

In the interview, Diana famously said of her marriage to Charles: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Earl Spencer maintained for years that Bashir showed him fake financial documents relating to Diana’s former private secretary Patrick Jephson and another former royal household member.

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Earl Spencer also said the journalist had told outlandish and untrue stories about the Royal Family to get Diana onside, including that she was being spied on by the secret services.

The story about the faked documents was first reported in The Mail on Sunday a year after the interview, in 1996.

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Main findings from inquiry into BBC Panorama scoop

According to the BBC, Bashir admitted having the statements mocked up, but repeatedly denied showing these documents to Earl Spencer.

It was not until 2020, and an article in The Sunday Times, that the BBC admitted publicly for the first time that Earl Spencer had in fact been shown the faked bank documents by Bashir.

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Ex-BBC boss ‘deeply sorry’ to Prince William

In 2021, an independent inquiry, headed by Lord Dyson, found the broadcaster covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by journalist Bashir to secure the interview.

Bashir, meanwhile, was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess, Lord Dyson’s report found.

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Bashir left the BBC for ITV in 1999, but returned to the broadcaster in 2016, becoming its religious affairs editor. He officially stepped down from his job at the BBC in 2021.

In response to Lord Dyson’s findings, Bashir apologised, saying the faking of bank statements was “a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret”.

But he added he felt it had “no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview”.

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