The conflicted BBC royal correspondent at The Normandy Memorial Trust

  1. BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell is the founding trustee of The Normandy Memorial Trust (NMT), a charity he set up in 2016 to build a memorial in Normandy, France to the 22 442 British men and women killed in 1944 during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. As part of the events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on 6 June 2019, the official inauguration of the site of the British Normandy memorial will take place. Both the UK prime minister and French president are expected to attend the ceremony, says the NMT website.
  2. The board of trustees delegates the charity’s “day-to-day activities” to Mr Witchell, according to the latest trustees’ annual report, made up to 30 June 2018. Thus the BBC royal correspondent has a key role at NMT. Which makes his conflict of interest as a trustee even more problematic.
  3. The conflict arises in two ways.
  4. First, as a BBC journalist Mr Witchell needs to be objective and impartial. Yet Prince Charles is the royal patron of NMT. Thus Mr Witchell’s role at the charity risks undermining his independence as BBC royal correspondent.
  5. Second, on 5 March 2017, the government awarded the charity £20m from the LIBOR fund. I and others have shown there are several military charities that received large grants from the LIBOR fund, only to spend the money profligately. Military charities like Veterans Council, for example (see 25 February 2018 post and references therein). Further, The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust, which I exposed on 13 June 2017, is another charity that was gifted a large sum from the LIBOR fund. Thus it’s in the public interest to scrutinise how NMT spends its grant. Nevertheless I fear that Mr Witchell’s role at the charity could discourage the BBC and its journalists from examining critically both the charity and his involvement there.
  6. On 8 September 2017, the National Audit Office (NAO) published the findings of its investigation into the management of the LIBOR fund. At September 2017 the government had committed £933m from the LIBOR fund, but couldn’t confirm to the NAO that the recipient charities had spent all grants as intended! A clear oversight failure. Further evidence of the need to scrutinise how NMT actually spends the £20m LIBOR grant, therefore.
  7. On the first point, Mr Witchell said in an email: “The BBC has been and is fully aware of my involvement with The Normandy Memorial Trust. My obligation to provide impartial, fair and – if necessary – robust coverage as one of the BBC’s royal correspondents will always take precedence over any other consideration.”
  8. While on the second point, the BBC royal correspondent wrote in the same message: “The Normandy Memorial Trust does not see itself as a ‘military charity’. Its focus is to provide a memorial in Normandy to the 22 442 men and women under British command who lost their lives in Normandy in the sumer [sic] of 1944 in pursuit of European freedom. The trust’s board of trustees headed by Lord Peter Ricketts exercises robust financial oversight precisely to ensure that the public money from LIBOR is spent responsibly. The trust welcomes proper scrutiny.” Mr Witchell finished: “The BBC would never permit the involvement of one of its staff in a charity to influence decisions about editorial coverage.”
  9. I wrote back mainly about his last sentence. I agree, I said, that’s what the public should rightly expect from the BBC. However, we mustn’t forget the Jimmy Savile scandal.
  10. In December 2011, the BBC notoriously axed producer Meirion Jones’ Newsnight investigation into BBC star Mr Savile. Thus the organisation instituted a cover-up. This intervention by the BBC shows it can – and did – undermine the editorial independence of its news journalists.
  11. Mr Witchell replied the same day, but didn’t comment on my response to the last sentence in his first email.

Charity Commission opens regulatory compliance case into Care after Combat following my investigation

  1. I recently asked the Charity Commission for a comment on the concerns I raised about military charity Care after Combat (see 20 October 2018 post).
  2. Its spokesperson said in a written statement on 11 December 2018: “We are aware of concerns about Care after Combat, including around governance issues and political independence. We recently opened a regulatory compliance case in order to assess whether the trustees are actively fulfilling their legal duties towards the charity. We expect the trustees to respond meaningfully to our concerns as such issues have the potential to seriously undermine public confidence in charity. Charities can and should be able to speak out on matters affecting their beneficiaries, but they must protect and nurture public trust by maintaining their political neutrality at all times.”
  3. She concluded: “As this is an active case we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Care after Combat: Trustee Andrew Griffiths MP and Conservative campaigning undermine its credibility

  1. Here I reveal two reasons for concern about military charity Care after Combat as it seeks more money from the government for its work with veterans, following the £1m it received in 2015 (registered charity number: 1159342).
  2. First, there is conflicting evidence whether disgraced former government minister Andrew Griffiths MP was or is a trustee. What’s more, the charity’s response – from the chief executiveto a polite request for clarification was obstructive, dismissive and rude. Second, Care after Combat uses its official Twitter account for party-political campaigning, as the recent Conservative party conference shows.
  3. Registered as a charity on 25 November 2014, Care after Combat was founded by comedian Jim Davidson, who is chief executive. His is a paid role plus “expenses”, as Andrew Gilligan revealed in The Sunday Times newspaper on 25 September 2016. His report also mentioned that Mr Griffiths, then a government whip, was a trustee at the time. But was he?
  4. The charity’s 2016 trustees’ annual report shows Mr Griffiths became a trustee on 10 March 2016. Further, Care after Combat announced on its website on 23 March 2016 his appointment as a trustee (screen shot in Figure 1). So that’s clear then. Not quite.

    Figure 1. Andrew Griffiths MP appointed as a trustee: Care after Combat website on 23 March 2016

  5. The Companies House records for Care after Combat don’t show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director (registered company number: 09152620).
  6. Also, Mr Griffiths didn’t disclose he was a trustee of Care after Combat in parliament’s list of ministers’ interests at December 2016. There the then government whip lists roles with six charities, none of which are Mr Davidson‘s.
  7. Meanwhile, the charity’s 2017 trustees’ annual report, its latest, omits to mention trustee Mr Griffiths. There’s no record of him at all.
  8. Again, the list of ministers’ interests at December 2017 shows Mr Griffiths‘ posts with now five charities, none of which are Care after Combat.
  9. Mr Davidson is public contact, too, for the charity. I emailed him two questions about alleged trustee Mr Griffiths. First, why don’t the Companies House records for Care after Combat show the concomitant appointment of Mr Griffiths as a director? Second, why does the 2017 trustees’ annual report omit to mention trustee Mr Griffiths?
  10. Mr Davidson replied instantly: “With the greatest of respect……… [sic] You are clearly without all the facts. I would suggest you aim your questions to Companies House or the Charities [sic] Commission.” I didn’t respond.
  11. A few minutes later I received another message from him: “I’ve just looked you up…. [sic] have you nothing better to do? Sad [sic]It could have been President Trump of the US.
  12. The lack of reference to alleged trustee Mr Griffiths in Care after Combat‘s 2017 trustees’ annual report raises serious questions about the management of the charity and its record-keeping. If he had resigned as a trustee, it should be recorded in the annual report. Similarly, the absence of filings at Companies House about Mr Griffiths as a director needs explanation.
  13. Mr Griffiths isn’t currently listed as a trustee of Care after Combat on the Charity Commission public register of charities.
  14. In July, Mr Griffiths resigned as minister for small business – after the Sunday Mirror newspaper revealed that he had sent hundreds of sexually explicit messages to two female constituents, both over 20 years younger than him. Mr Griffiths, who is married with a young child, continues as MP for Burton, sitting as an independent in light of ongoing investigations.
  15. Mr Griffiths didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Figure 2. Care after Combat re-tweets glowing assessments of 2018 Conservative party conference by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis on 3 October 2018

  16. Care after Combat has been closely linked to the Conservatives from the beginning. Mr Davidson is a long-term public supporter of the party. Thus the formal involvement of Tory MP Mr Griffiths as a trustee isn’t surprising. Particularly concerning, though, is the charity’s use of its official Twitter account for Conservative campaigning. I refer to its tweets around this year’s Tory party conference, for example, which took place in Birmingham from 30 September until 3 October. Here I show examples from two days, but there are many others. First, at the end of the conference, Care after Combat re-tweeted glowing assessments of the event by justice secretary David Gauke and party chair Brandon Lewis (screen shot in Figure 2). Second, on 1 October, the charity tweeted and re-tweeted Tory MP Conor Burns: “Conor Burns. Great supporter. Good friend. Top bloke. Nuff said” (screen shot in Figure 3). The same day it re-tweeted a quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove’s conference speech, a quote strongly attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Figure 3).

    Figure 3. Care after Combat tweets and re-tweets Tory MP Conor Burns on 1 October 2018; and re-tweets quote from Defra secretary Michael Gove, which strongly attacks Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

  17. Charities are prohibited from party-political campaigning. Thus Care after Combat‘s tweets in support of the Conservatives are unacceptable. Charities must be politically neutral.
  18. Care after Combat has recently appointed a political lobbyist, Hume Brophy, according to the firm’s disclosures on the current register of the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC), that from 1 June 2018 until 31 August 2018. The charity wasn’t a Hume Brophy client on the previous register. Here there’s a yet another link to the Conservatives and the government! Former government minister James Wharton is executive chair of corporate and public affairs at the political lobbyist.
  19. Care after Combat is lobbying government for more money, it appears. On funding, its 2017 trustees’ annual report says: “The next twelve months will indicate the commitment of Her Majesties [sic] Government to Care After Combat’s cause and the Phoenix project that it helped to establish.” Back in 2015, the government somewhat controversially awarded the charity £1m from the LIBOR fund, which was established by then Conservative chancellor George Osborne to support veterans. On 25 September 2016, The Sunday Times revealed that Tory ex-Brexit secretary David Davis had the previous year written a letter to Mr Osborne in support of the charity receiving a grant from the LIBOR fund. Clearly, Mr Davidson‘s links to senior Conservatives helped secure the £1m from government for what was then a new charity without a meaningful track record.
  20. The lack of clarity and transparency around when Mr Griffiths was or is a trustee, if indeed he ever was, is unacceptable. The apparent deficiencies in the charity’s reporting of his role only adds to the concern, as does its contemptuous response to legitimate questions. Meanwhile, Care after Combat‘s communications on Twitter demonstrate it isn’t politically neutral. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that founder Mr Davidson as chief executive – salaried plus “expenses”, of course – is overly dominant and conflicted. Being a right-wing comedian and long-term Conservative campaigner is one thing. Being the chief executive of a charity is another – or at least should be. The two roles are simply incompatible, even without the fact that Care after Combat has been dependent on government largesse (Conservative chancellor) and is lobbying for more.
  21. ADDENDUM: For the avoidance of doubt, this analysis isn’t politically motivated. The problems arise because even as a charity chief executive, Mr Davidson, who styles himself “the people’s comedian”, has been and continues to be a public supporter of a political party. A party that as the government holds the purse strings.

Charity Commission unaccountable on Veterans Council

  1. Last month I asked the Charity Commission a simple and clear question after its press office had in February 2018 provided a statement about the commission‘s future actions in relation to one of my charity investigations. Following an unexplained delay and an email reminder, I finally received a response this month. The charity regulator refused to answer the question.
  2. The charity is Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215), which I wrote about on 25 February 2018. There I revealed five concerns about its then newly filed first accounts, which were a year late! As you can see, a commission spokesperson said in an email then: “I can confirm that we are looking into these concerns and will be contacting the charity about them”.
  3. Seven months later, mid-September, I requested an update: what, if anything, has the regulator done since I published my findings in February?
  4. A press officer finally wrote in reply on 2 October: “We have no further updates at this time. You’re welcome to get back in touch with us in the future to check if there are any developments.”
  5. Her response was inadequate. I therefore pointed out the failure to answer the question, and asked again for an answer. I’ve received nothing.
  6. Meanwhile, what’s happening with Veterans Council? Well, at 9 October 2018 its second accounts, for 2017, are currently 251 days overdue, according to the Charity Commission public register of charities. Just 251 days.
  7. The regulator continually bangs on about how charities must be must be open, transparent and accountable. It’s right, of course. What a pity, then, the commission again fails to practise what it preaches (for another recent example, see 22 June 2018 post).

Interview in “Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats” on BBC One

  1. Today (6 June 2018) I appeared in a BBC One TV programme, “Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats”, which went out at 09:15. My interview was filmed at the end of March.
  2. It was episode three of a five-part series being shown at the same time this week, Monday to Friday.
  3. Thankfully, the experience was much better than with an earlier BBC TV programme (see 8 January 2018 post). For a start, there was no intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog this time.
  4. Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats” – a title that requires no explanation – is available on the BBC iPlayer:

Five concerns about the first accounts of Veterans Council

  1. The wait is over. Charity Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215) recently filed its long-overdue first accounts at the Charity Commission, those made up to 31 March 2016. Only a year late! For that first year, the charity register shows income of £75 942 and expenditure of £72 975 (screen shot in Figure 1). Before describing five concerns about the accounts, I’ll explain why I was awaiting submission of the relevant documents at the commission.

    Figure 1. Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215): Charity Commission at 24 February 2018

  2. Based in Lytham St Annes, Veterans Council (1159215) is linked to another north-west military charity also called Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1140336). Veterans Council (1140336) was removed from the Charity Commission public register on 29 July 2015.
  3. Veterans Council (1140336) is of interest for many reasons (see 17 October 2016 post). Here’s two. First, the small, local charity was awarded £0.5m from the government’s Armed forces covenant (LIBOR) fund in June 2013. Second, I exclusively revealed that no accounts show how the charity actually spent the £0.5m grant.
  4. I showed that the last accounts Veterans Council (1140336) filed at the commission, those for financial year ending (FYE) 31 March 2014, were incomplete. The table of contents lists pages not actually in the document submitted to the commission. Among pages seemingly missing is the “income and expenditure account”, so there’s no breakdown of the charity’s spending that year after the first injection of money from the LIBOR fund. And, of course, Veterans Council (1140336) didn’t file accounts the next year, for FYE 31 March 2015, either. So the question remains: how exactly did Veterans Council (1140336) spend the £0.5m from the LIBOR fund?
  5. Veterans Council (1140336) was based in St Helens. My 17 October 2016 investigation was reported in The Wigan Evening Post newspaper on 9 November 2016 ( There Des White, chair of Veterans Council (1140336), dismissed my points about the failure of his charity to report formally what it had actually done with the £0.5m grant. Mr White added that the new Veterans Council (i.e. 1159215) would in due time produce accounts, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  6. So let’s examine the first accounts of Veterans Council (1159215). As I say, they were a year late, which is a bad sign. And remember: the charity register shows income of £75 942 and expenditure of £72 975, for the first year (up to 31 March 2016). Here are five concerns about the accounts.
  7. First, the accounts don’t show the income and expenditure reported on the charity register (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Veterans Council (registered charity number: 1159215): accounts for 31 March 2016, p1, at 24 February 2018

  8. Second, it appears section A of the accounts, “Receipts and payments”, hasn’t been completed correctly: see the breakdown in section A1, “Receipts”, for example (Figure 2). There the data seem to be expenditure.
  9. Third, there’s no evidence of an independent examination of the accounts. This is a critical omission. In other words, Veterans Council (1159215) hasn’t provided evidence of the required external scrutiny of its accounts – here an independent examination. (Charity law requires charities with an income above £25k to have some form of external scrutiny of their accounts.)
  10. Fourth, the linked trustees’ annual report for the period fails to explain the itemised apparent expenditure in the accounts. So who received the “salaries” of £54 125 and why? Similarly, the “rents” of £21 480: who received these and why? Etc.
  11. Fifth, the trustees’ annual report is inadequate. It contains almost no detail on the alleged activities of the charity.
  12. In conclusion, both Veterans Council (1140336) and Veterans Council (1159215) filed inadequate accounts at the Charity Commission. It’s obviously disappointing the charity regulator seemingly failed in both cases to identify the problems – and didn’t act on them. What’s worse, these aren’t independent charities: my findings about Veterans Council (1140336) should have made the commission vigilant about the linked Veterans Council (1159215). At the time both I and The Wigan Evening Post contacted the charity regulator about my 17 October 2016 investigation.
  13. I requested a comment from the Charity Commission on the five concerns about the first accounts of Veterans Council (1159215). On 20 February 2018, a spokesperson said in an email: “I can confirm that we are looking into these concerns and will be contacting the charity about them.” I also requested via email a comment from Edward Nash, chair of and contact for Veterans Council (1159215). In his response on 23 February 2018, Mr Nash refused to address my concerns.

The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal

  1. Here I show what I consider to be intentional plagiarism of facts and images from my blog by those responsible for a BBC TV programme broadcast in November 2016. The three-stage BBC complaints process was inadequate in so many ways – both process and outcome. The trusted public-service broadcaster displayed arrogance throughout as it fobbed me off with evasive and obfuscatory responses. The lessons are many – but two stand out. First, the BBC sees nothing wrong in what I allege to be its unethical conduct. Its position would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Second, the BBC can’t be trusted to deal with complaints about its journalism. Self-regulation by the BBC is no regulation.
  2. What do I mean by plagiarism? This definition from the University of Oxford website for its students is as good as any: “Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional.”
  3. The Great Military Charity Scandal” was on BBC One Scotland on 8 November 2016 at 19:00 and available on the BBC iPlayer afterwards. It was made by BBC Scotland Investigates. I haven’t written about the TV programme until now because I was following the BBC complaints process – and then that of communications watchdog Ofcom.
  4. On 28 January 2017, I wrote about the announcement by charity regulator the Charity Commission that it had opened a statutory inquiry into charity Support The Heroes (STH; registered charity number: 1155853) and appointed an interim manager. The relevant commission press release, the link for which is in that post, refers to the TV programme in its “notes to editors.”
  5. Liam McDougall was the producer of “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” He first contacted me about his programme on 8 January 2016, referring in an email to the “great work” I’ve been doing on charity fraud and abuse, particularly military charities. This is on my blog, My charity investigations have been reported in national newspapers: The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Daily Mirror and BuzzFeed (news website). Ive also twice appeared as a live studio guest on BBC Radio 5 live programme, 5 live Investigates, to discuss my findings. In 2016, influential Frank Field MP tabled two written parliamentary questions to the Work and Pensions Secretary after one of my charity exposés.
  6. My 28 January 2017 post gives the background on the commission’s actions on STH, describing the role of Tony Chadwick of Blackpool, his rip-off fundraising companies and three linked military charities, all high-profile: Afghan Heroes (AH), Our Local Heroes Foundation (OLHF), and STH. Each, separately, continues to be the subject of a live statutory inquiry by the charity regulator. FOR EACH CHARITY IN TURN, I BROKE BOTH THE LINK TO MR CHADWICK AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE, AS WELL AS FAILURES OF REGULATION.
  7. I first wrote about STH and its link to Mr Chadwick on 21 April 2015. It was my scoop. Thus the programme-makers were guided by my revelations then and thereafter.
  8. My proof of the link was critical to the programme: both Mr Chadwick and STH had actively tried to hide their working together (see blog, passim ad nauseam).
  9. As I wrote on 28 January 2017, my first post about STH, on 21 April 2015, exclusively exposed almost all the issues the commission said in January 2017 it wants its statutory inquiry to investigate.
  10. My 28 January 2017 post acknowledges the Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ (WMHCHQ), a Facebook group, for its interest in my work on STH, and help publicising it. There I also state when the group first contacted me about the charity, thus proving I exclusively exposed STH.
  11. WMHCHQ wouldn’t have allowed or continue to allow me to present my dealings with the group as described in the 28 January 2017 post unless accurate. WMHCHQ don’t hold back, online or offline. Nor do its followers.
  12. In addition, the WMHCHQ timeline itself confirms the timeline of events for STH.
  13. Prior to the TV programme, there were three related publicly available sources for the connection between Mr Chadwick and STH. The three are in chronological order: my blog; WMHCHQ; and The Sunday Times (2 October 2016). Both WMHCHQ and the newspaper, separately, credited me as source. Yet “The Great Military Charity Scandal” failed to acknowledge me in any way. Thus the programme-makers intentionally plagiarised facts from my blog.
  14. So what about STH was new in the TV programme? Well, BBC Scotland Investigates secretly filmed STH representatives misleading the public as to how much of the £2.50 price of a prize draw ticket actually goes to the charity. The representatives were in fact working for Mr Chadwick‘s company, Targeted Management Limited (registered company number: 09036445) – a Blackpool firm incorporated in May 2014, whose activities this blog has exclusively exposed. Long-time readers of the blog won’t be surprised in the slightest by the programme’s filmed evidence. For years I’ve repeatedly written about my own and others’ experiences with Mr Chadwick‘s rip-off fundraising companies and their work for AH, OLHF and STH. My first 5 live Investigates programme in November 2014, for example, reported different people’s experiences of unsatisfactory and misleading encounters in shopping centres around the UK with OLHF representatives controlled by Mr Chadwick (see 10 November 2014 post). The OLHF representatives were flogging prize draw tickets – as were the AH representatives before them (see blog, passim ad nauseam). Mr McDougall obtained both my 5 live Investigates programmes and listened to them. I know because he told me.
  15. As well as plagiarising facts from my blog, the TV programme intentionally plagiarised images. Images only available on my blog were shown without credit or attribution. These images include, but aren’t limited to, the identifiable AH prize draw ticket, a key piece of evidence. The identifiable images were central to the programme. And the images had to be accurate and trusted for the BBC to show them on TV. Put simply, the source had to be credible. I’m the “UK’s expert,” as Mr McDougall said to me several times. It’s simply indefensible to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  16. Another indication of the importance of my images of particularly the AH prize draw ticket in “The Great Military Charity Scandal” is the fact one of them (my images of the AH prize draw ticket) appears prominently in the official 31-second trailer, too:
  17. As I say, here my focus is the intentional plagiarism of facts and images. Nevertheless there are many other matters I complained to the BBC about in relation to its TV programme. From January 2016, for example, I spent tens of hours talking on the phone and corresponding with the producer. He told me at the outset hed interview me on the programme – and repeatedly reminded me of the fact. Further, I lent him highly sensitive, original documents: I gave them to him in person in Manchester city centre in July 2016. (Mr McDougall was accompanied by the programme’s reporter, Sam Poling, that day.) He promised hed return them in person. I didn’t stipulate delivery that way: nevertheless he said he would, and as soon as possible. At 5 December 2016the date of my first formal complaint to the BBC – I still hadn’t received my original documents. I finally received them – without apology or explanation for the delay – at the end of January 2017!
  18. On 8 November 2016, I complained to Mr McDougall in an email: Do you think I’d have spent so much time talking and corresponding with you if I’d known that you weren’t in fact going to interview me, let alone credit me in any way?” He didn’t reply.
  19. I formally complained to the BBC on 5 December 2016 in an email to the Director-General, Lord Hall, because he’s Editor-in-Chief. Imagine my surprise when I received the BBC’s response to my first formal complaint: it was written by Mr McDougall! It’s self-evidently unsatisfactory for Mr McDougall to consider my complaint on behalf of the Editor-in-Chief. Further, I regarded his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  20. So I escalated my complaint to the BBC explicitly calling for independent consideration of my complaint for the process to be credible. I also stated disclosure of emails was essential after allegations made by Mr McDougall in his response for the BBC. So who now handled my second formal complaint for the Editor-in-Chief? The programme’s executive producer, Daniel Maxwell!
  21. Mr Maxwell failed to request any emails from me. There was no evidence in his response he’d scrutinised my blog, either. And, again, I found his response to be unacceptable for several reasons.
  22. Thus I had no option but to escalate once more my complaint to the BBC – to its nominally independent Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). There my complaint was handled throughout by BBC complaints director, Colin Tregear.
  23. Mr Tregear instigated disclosure of emails – at last.
  24. I shall now examine how each of the three BBC responses dealt with the alleged intentional plagiarism of facts and images.
  25. First, here’s what Mr McDougall said: “All of your posts are published on a public forum, and are freely accessible via an open-source search of the internet.” He added: “… It is entirely untrue for you to suggest that you somehow hold the exclusive rights to information about Tony Chadwick, Afghan Heroes, Support the Heroes or Our Local Heroes Foundation. As I say, there is much publicly available information about these organisations and indeed your posts themselves place the information in the public arena.” Astonishingly, the producer also wrote: “And surely, given that the facts have been published by you means that by definition the information is public and freely available?” And another vague statement: “Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  26. True, my blog is accessible to all – but use by a third party of the information published there, including images, requires credit and attribution. Otherwise it’s intentional plagiarism. Prior to the TV programme, the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH was exclusively broken by me – and then picked up in turn by WMHCHQ and The Sunday Times (see above). Both, separately, acknowledged me as source. The BBC did not.
  27. Now onto the BBC’s second response, from Mr Maxwell. He said: “On the allegation of plagiarism, it is untrue to say that our producer ‘intentionally plagiarised’ your blog. As you know, for many months the BBC was in discussion with you about the nature and content of some of the BBC investigation. The fact that we featured individuals like Tony Chadwick and the charity Support the Heroes would have been no surprise to you. In fact, our producer had discussed some of the detail we would feature in the programme with you and you were entirely happy for us to do this. That said, every piece of information contained in the programme was gathered, checked and verified beyond something simply being repeated from your blog. Everything was corroborated independently of any single source. In addition, information regarding concerns about Mr Chadwick, Afghan Heroes and Support the Heroes used in the programme was already public. Concerns had been published extensively by numerous media and social media outlets, and by the Charity Commission itself.”
  28. Note Mr Maxwell‘s vague final sentence there. Sound familiar? He copied it from Mr McDougall! (see above) As you can see, the executive producer, too, ignored the provenance of the published evidence for the link between between Mr Chadwick and STH. He also said nothing about use of images from my blog without due acknowledgement. On the alleged plagiarism, then, Mr Maxwell was as evasive and obfuscatory as Mr McDougall before him.
  29. Finally, what did Mr Tregear of the ECU say? On the intentional plagiarism of facts, he wrote: “… I understand you may have been the first person to uncover information about Tony Chadwick, his businesses, his links with military charities such as Afghan Heroes and Support The Heroes and failures of regulation. However, to the best of my knowledge, you were not the only source for the information which was included in the programme and much of the information was already in the public domain.” The BBC complaints director concluded: “… I appreciate why you say you should have been credited in the programme and I can understand why you are annoyed that didn’t happen. However, I cannot agree there was intentional plagiarism of your work bearing in mind much of what you had written had been repeated elsewhere in the media and in official reports.”
  30. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, Mr Tregear stated: “… The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines include guidance on the use of pictures from social media and third party websites [9]. It recognises that material which has been put in the public domain via publication on a website or social media may be re-used but programme-makers should consider the original intention in publication and the impact of any re-use. The guidance says ‘A picture available without meaningful restrictions on a website may be considered to be in the public domain and the media may consider that it has the right to exploit it – but that does not always make it the right thing to do.‘ In this case, I think the manner in which the images were re-used matched the original use, namely illustrating the activities of military charities, and there were no particular privacy issues arising from their use. I therefore cannot see how the use led to a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards.”
  31. Thus the BBC complaints director dismissed my allegations of intentional plagiarism. He finished: “…This will be the BBC’s final finding on your complaint unless there are reasons to modify or amend it in light of any comments you may wish to make.” So I duly sent comments as I was not satisfied with his rationale for dismissing my allegations of intentional plagiarism.
  32. The chronology, I pointed out, is critical: how and when did facts become first uncovered and reported? It’s self-evidently unacceptable to not credit me for breaking the relevant stories, particularly the link between Mr Chadwick and STH. On the intentional plagiarism of images, meanwhile, I said his response would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Privacy isn’t relevant here. It’s simply indefensible, I repeated, to use my images without due acknowledgement.
  33. In his reply, Mr Tregear said he saw no reason to amend his decision. In particular, he stated: “I agree it would have been courteous to acknowledge your role [in breaking the link between Mr Chadwick and STH] but as I said in my letter of 18 July there is nothing in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines which says sources of information have to be given public credit; the requirement is to ensure material is checked and verified.”
  34. Because I was so dissatisfied with the BBC’s final decision, I still wrote back. There I also brought to Mr Tregear‘s attention the fact he’d referred in his last letter to Save The Heroes” (sic), not STH. There was no response, no correction.
  35. Having exhausted the BBC’s complaints process, I submitted a complaint about the alleged intentional plagiarism to communications regulator Ofcom, which now regulates the BBC, too. Unfortunately, it said in a letter my complaint failed to “engage any rules in the Code [Ofcom Broadcasting Code] and is therefore out of our remit”.
  36. My experience with the BBC should be a warning to any individual or organisation that undertakes and publishes original investigations. According to its complaints director, the BBC could use facts you’re the first to uncover and report – but without crediting you in any way. It could without due acknowledgement use images you exclusively publish, too.
  37. Then there’s something else: BBC Scotland Investigates, remember, made the TV programme. Plagiarism is self-evidently unacceptable and unethical. It’s even worse when the journalism styles itself as investigative.
  38. Never mind “The Great Military Charity Scandal.” This is surely The Great BBC Plagiarism Scandal.