Diana chauffeur and BBC agree payout over claim Martin Bashir slandered him | Diana, Princess of Wales

The BBC has agreed to pay “substantial” compensation to Diana, Princess of Wales’s chauffeur to settle a claim he was slandered by the disgraced broadcaster Martin Bashir.

The claim by Steve Davies, her driver for many years, related to allegations Bashir made to the princess and her brother, Earl Spencer, during a meeting in 1995 as the journalist was trying to secure his explosive Panorama interview with her.

She and Spencer were told that Davies “feeds [the] Today newspaper … change your chauffeur”, in a reference to the now defunct newspaper. The driver was sacked six months later “without explanation” after “many years” in the role.

It was after the allegations were repeated in the Netflix series The Crown (season five) that they were brought to the attention of Davies, who launched a legal action.

An agreed statement was read out in court by lawyers for both sides, in which the allegation by Bashir was described as fabricated and unfounded.

Persephone Bridgman Baker of Carter-Ruck on behalf of Davies said he had been devastated by the termination of his employment with the princess, with whom he had maintained a close relationship through many years of working for her.

He had been “tormented by speculation” about what possible reason there could be for losing his job and had been acutely embarrassed about the dismissal, added the statement.

“It is a matter of profound regret to him that, as he now knows, the princess believed that he had betrayed her, and he was unable to correct the position before her tragic death.”

The BBC had promptly accepted that the allegation was entirely without foundation and should never have been made, the statement added. Along with covering his legal costs, BBC has agreed to pay Davis “a sum of compensation for the purposes of vindicating his reputation and attempting to compensate the harm and distress caused to him”.

The comments were revealed in a report into the controversial 1996 Panorama documentary, in which Lord Dyson found that found Bashir had acted in a “deceitful” manner by commissioning fake bank statements to get an interview with the princess.

He showed the fake documents to Spencer to gain his trust so he would introduce Bashir to his sister, the report found. Handwritten notes taken by Spencer from a meeting he and his sister had held in September 1995 with Bashir emerged as a result of the Dyson investigation, which was also highly critical of the BBC’s own investigation into Bashir.

The notes referred to the false claim that Davies was feeding the now defunct Today newspaper, saying: “Change your chauffeur”.

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Davies said in a statement through his solicitors on Tuesday: “I am relieved that I have been able to clear my name, and my professional reputation as a chauffeur, through this legal process.

“I was shocked to hear that these false allegations had been made about me almost 30 years ago and were very likely to be the cause of my sudden termination.”

Samuel Rowe, on behalf of the BBC, read out a part of the agreed statement, which said: “The BBC accepts that the allegation made about the claimant was and is wholly false and should never have been made, and that it constitutes an attack on the claimant’s reputation both personally and professionally.

“The BBC accepts that the allegation was likely to have caused HRH the Princess of Wales to doubt the claimant’s loyalty and professionalism and may well have contributed to the claimant’s redundancy six months later.”

A spokesperson for the BBC said it had nothing further to add.


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