Iain Overton has resigned as editor of the Bureau of Investigation following a meeting with the trust which oversees the body.
His exit follows the involvement of him and lead reporter for the bureau Angus Stickler in the co-production of a Newsnight report broadcast on 2 November which wrongly suggested that a leading Conservative politician from the Thatcher era was involved in child abuse at a north Wales children’s home.
The source for that claim withdrew it last week, but not before Lord McAlpine was widely (and wrongly) named online as the individual involved. McAlpine has indicated that he plans to sue the BBC for defamation.
Chairman of trustees for the bureau James Lee said in a statement: “The Bureau of Investigative Journalism was established to apply the highest standards of investigative and fact-based journalism in the public interest.
“During its first three years, the Bureau has won a number of major awards for its journalism and built a reputation for quality and the avoidance of sensationalism. The governing trust of The Bureau does not endorse any material or output that fails to meet these standards.
“The Bureau was named as a contributor to the broadcast of a BBC Newsnight programme on November 2 on child abuse in North Wales. The trustees are appalled at what appears to be a breach of its standards. To the extent that the principles of the Bureau have been ignored by an involvement in this story, remedial action will be taken against those responsible. The trustees must ensure that due process is applied and are establishing the key facts.”.
Angus Stickler said via a statement on Sunday afternoon: “On the 10th November the BBC announced a review of the Newsnight report to be conducted by Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland.
“I made it clear to the BBC from the start that I would cooperate fully with the review. I have done so to the best of my ability within a very tight time frame.
“I have been advised to make no public comment until this review and another reviewbeing conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism are completed. To that end I would request that my colleagues in the media respect the privacy of my family so that my children can return to their home.”
Overton was widely criticising for a Twitter message teasing that day's Newsnight report on the afternoon of 2 November. In it he said: "If all goes well we've got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile."