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BBC admits Iraq mistakes


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A BBC inquiry into its handling of the Iraq dossier affair drew a line yesterday under further dismissals but conceded that the corporation had made mistakes.

An internal "disciplinary process" into the handling of the Today programme story and the subsequent row with Downing Street, which precipitated the suicide of David Kelly, the weapons inspector, issued a short press statement saying there was no need for dismissals.

However, contrary to earlier reports that all of the executives involved had been exonerated, it is understood that some have been criticised over the evidence provided to the Hutton inquiry.

Insiders said Richard Sambrook, the head of news, was admonished in two areas - over the briefing that he gave to BBC governors about the strength of the story by reporter Andrew Gilligan and in the way the corporation's case was later presented to the Hutton inquiry.

It is also believed that Stephen Whittle, the BBC's controller of editorial policy, was criticised for telling Greg Dyke, the former director-general, that Gilligan's report was "sound and well-sourced".

The BBC's investigation, led by its head of personnel, Stephen Dando, and its policy chief, Caroline Thomson, caused friction within the corporation where many journalists regarded it as a "kangaroo court". One of those cleared by the inquiry said yesterday he was "still spitting about the way it was conducted".

The investigation blamed Gilligan, the former Today reporter, for the crisis that led to the resignations of Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies, the ex-BBC chairman.

The BBC stressed that Lord Hutton was "unjustified" in criticising Kevin Marsh, the editor of Today, and Stephen Mitchell, the head of radio news, for not forwarding to senior executives an e-mail in which Marsh described Gilligan's report as "marred" by "flawed reporting" and "loose use of language".

The inquiry said that, contrary to Lord Hutton's opinion, it was "satisfied that a core script was properly prepared and cleared in line with normal production practices in place at the time, but was then not followed by Andrew Gilligan".

The inquiry also challenged the corporation's original handling of Marsh's e-mail criticising Gilligan.

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