Falconer: BBC payment to Fearon is disgusting

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The Independent Online

Condemnation of the BBC for paying a burglar shot by Norfolk farmer Tony Martin to take part in a documentary intensified last night as the Lord Chancellor said the payment was "disgusting".

Lord Falconer said: "I can recognise that there might be some very, very, very exceptional cases where it might be permissible, but [this] is most certainly not one of them," he told BBC Radio 4's Any Questions.

"What happened in relation to Mr Martin was investigated in a trial, there was an appeal. We didn't need the BBC to pay Mr Fearon to find out what happened. It might make good programming, but it is a disgusting warping of values, in my view."

Earlier the man who wrote to the BBC's producer guidelines also attacked the payment, said to be £4,500, to Brendan Fearon. Richard Ayre, who was the BBC's controller of editorial policy and deputy chief executive of news from 1996-99, said the sum apparently paid to Fearon were "extraordinarily large".

Mr Ayre said the only public-interest justification for interviewing Fearon would be to challenge him as to why he changed his story about exactly where Martin was when he and Fred Barras, who was shot dead by Martin, entered the house.

The Court of Appeal noted, when it reduced Martin's conviction to manslaughter, that this point had not been dealt with in Fearon's cross-examination at the original trial.