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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 10:52 GMT
BBC 'did not ignore legal advice'
BBC staff show their support
BBC staff are expected to protest on Thursday
BBC governors have denied claims they spurned lawyers' advice that the Hutton Report was legally flawed.

They issued a statement after the Independent claimed a 135-page confidential document highlighted 12 main areas "ignored" by the inquiry.

The document said Lord Hutton's controversial report - which was highly critical of the BBC - was "wrong" in law, the newspaper added.

On Thursday, thousands of BBC staff are expected to protest against the report.

Parliament 'misled'

BBC staff believed the lawyers' document could have provided the basis for a legal challenge to Lord Hutton's findings, the Independent said.

INQUIRY BACKGROUND
September 2002: Government produces dossier about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including claim they could be deployed within 45 minutes
May 2003: BBC Today programme's Andrew Gilligan broadcasts report of claims Downing Street "sexed up" dossier, with 45 mins claim included against intelligence agencies' wishes
10 July 2003:Dr David Kelly named as suspected source of report as government continues to deny the story
17 July 2003: Dr Kelly found dead
August 2003: Lord Hutton begins six weeks of hearings about the circumstances around Dr Kelly's death

The document is said to claim that former Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell misled Parliament about his role in drawing up the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons.

It said Mr Campbell falsely told the Foreign Affairs Committee he did not suggest changes to claims Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes, the Independent added.

BBC lawyers are also said to have suggested Foreign Secretary Jack Straw misled MPs about disquiet over the dossier among members of the intelligence service.

And, the newspaper adds, lawyers said the decision to run Andrew Gilligan's story that the dossier was "sexed up" was justified under the European Convention on Human Rights and previous legal rulings.

Mistakes

A spokesman for the BBC governors said: "There is no question that the BBC's Board of Governors ignored legal advice.

"The BBC had already accepted during the course of Lord Hutton's inquiry that mistakes had been made.

"At their meeting on 28 January the BBC governors were concerned only with Lord Hutton's findings in relation to the BBC and not other parties to the inquiry."

They said it was on that basis that the resignation of director general Greg Dyke was accepted.

On Sunday Mr Dyke accused Lord Hutton of not understanding the law, as it applied to the media, in reaching his conclusions

Downing Street declined to comment on the claims.

'Grave threat'

Demonstrations outside BBC offices across the UK on Thursday will protest against political "pressure and interference" in the wake of the Hutton report.

Organisers the National Union of Journalists and broadcasting union Bectu said they wanted to challenge any attempt to curb the BBC's independence.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "The Hutton Report poses a real and grave threat to journalism.

"It will inevitably mean that journalists face greater pressure to reveal their sources and it will make sources and whistle-blowers think twice before coming forward."





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