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'Inexcusable Errors' In 60 Minutes Case

Image: Getty

The Nine Network made inexcusable errors in the botched 60 Minutes child snatch attempt in Lebanon, including directly paying a recovery agency, a review has found.

Producer Stephen Rice, who was detained in Beirut along with reporter Tara Brown and two other 60 Minutes crew members, has lost his job and other staff involved in the planning and execution of the story have received formal warnings, despite the Nine review not recommending any staff member be singled out for dismissal.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks on Friday said "we got too close to the story" and it was inappropriate to directly pay the child recovery agency independently contracted by Australian mum Sally Faulkner, but the 60 Minutes program and payments for stories will continue.

THE STORY

*Australian woman Sally Faulkner goes to Lebanon to get two children her estranged husband Ali Elamine didn't return after holiday.

* Hires child recovery agency which grabbed Lahela (aged five) and Noah (three) on Beirut street on April 6.

* 60 Minutes crew there to film it: Reporter Tara Brown, producer Stephen Rice, sound recordist David Ballment, cameraman Ben Williamson.

WHAT HAPPENED

* Faulkner and 60 Minutes crew detained on child abduction charges.

* Spend 14 days in a Beirut jail before released when Elamine agrees to drop his personal charges.

* Child Abduction Recovery International CEO Adam Whittington, colleague Craig Michael and two Lebanese associates also detained.

WHAT NINE/60 MINUTES GOT WRONG

* Made direct payment to recovery agency (two payments totalling $115,000).

* Didn't consult with Nine's security advisers.

* Poor judgment: - in due diligence on CARI's expertise - direct payment to agency - considering alternative exits from Lebanon - failed to raise concerns about story with 60 Minutes management - failed to tell 60 Minutes management when appeared it wouldn't turn out as planned

* Didn't adhere to Nine's usual procedures (over security risks, safety, approval of contractual arrangements).

* Producers had significant level of autonomy, without adequate oversight.

* Team members not encouraged to press any concerns.

* Got too close to story.

THE FALLOUT

* Producer Rice gone.

* Formal warnings for others involved.

* Rest of 60 Minutes crew to return to work soon; still getting counselling.

* 60 Minutes program continues, as does payment for stories.

* Nine upgrading processes on story selection and approval, how to approve contracts and payments, risk assessments.

THE REVIEW

* Done by 60 Minutes founder and former executive producer Gerald Stone, former Nine senior executive and A Current Affair producer David Hurley and in-house general counsel Rachel Launders.

WHAT'S NEXT

* 60 Minutes crew could still face charges under Lebanese justice system.

* Public prosecutor considering charges of kidnap and belonging to a criminal gang (maximum sentence of three and 10 years respectively).

* CARI team remain in Beirut jail.

AAP

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