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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March 2005, 23:31 GMT
Burglar row film 'may be ditched'
Brendan Fearon
Brendan Fearon was wounded at the Norfolk farm
A BBC film for which a convicted burglar was paid about 4,000 may never be broadcast, said the corporation's director general.

The decision to pay Brendan Fearon, who broke into the home of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, caused outrage.

Mark Thompson said he or a senior colleague would watch the docu-drama to see if it was in the public interest.

The BBC had said the payment was justified under its guidelines because of "exceptional interest" in the case.

Mr Thompson made his comments to a parliamentary select committee on BBC charter review .

'Not greatest decision'

Committee chairman Lord Fowler said it was "not regarded as one of the greatest decisions the BBC has taken" and asked who had taken it.

Mr Thompson replied that it was a "complicated case" and the decision was taken in consultation with the controller of editorial policy, who can offer impartial advice to programme makers.

I will certainly be responsible for that decision
Mark Thompson
BBC Director General

"Subsequently, when this programme is ready for transmission, a decision will be made within the management of the BBC," he said.

He said the decision on whether or not the programme should be broadcast would be made either by him or delegated to director of television Jana Bennett.

"I will certainly be responsible for that decision" he added.

Mr Fearon was wounded and his 16-year-old accomplice Fred Barras killed when the pair broke into Mr Martin's home in 1999.

Mr Martin was freed from jail in 2003 after serving two-thirds of a five-year sentence for the manslaughter of Barras.

Mr Martin was said to be "disgusted" at the BBC's decision to pay Mr Fearon, who was jailed for his part in the burglary.

His spokesman Malcolm Starr said Mr Martin had been interviewed for the documentary but had not been offered any fee at all.

Several leading politicians, including the Lord Chancellor, also criticised the BBC's decision.


A BBC spokesman had said the payment to Mr Fearon was justifiable.

"Given that Mr Fearon is the only person apart from Tony Martin who is alive and a witness to what happened ... it is extremely important that the public hear the fullest possible account of the event," he said.

However, Richard Ayres, the man who wrote the BBC's Producer Guidelines did not voice support for the move.

"I tried to write a guideline which would mean (payments to criminals) would almost never happen, but would leave open the door for that real, genuine public-interest occasion. I am not convinced that today's is one such," he said.

Why the BBC decided to pay Brendan Fearon

Martin not to face theft charges
25 Feb 04 |  Norfolk
Martin quiz over car plate theft
13 Feb 04 |  Norfolk


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