Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Peer pursues claim over abuse slur

Lord McAlpine has reached a settlement with the BBC over false claims made in a Newsnight report

Former Conservative politician Lord McAlpine has commenced legal action against a long list of organisations and individuals who wrongly linked him to a paedophile ring after coming to a £185,000 settlement with the BBC.

Lawyers representing the peer said action is being prepared against ITV's This Morning and a large number of Twitter users - including the wife of the Commons speaker - who identified him in connection with false sex abuse claims.

It comes after the BBC agreed a libel payout with Lord McAlpine after airing a botched Newsnight investigation into child abuse at a North Wales care home. The terms of the agreement will be announced in court in a few days' time, according to RMPI LLP, the solicitors to the former Conservative Party treasurer.

The BBC said the settlement was comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made. Lord McAlpine said he was "delighted" to have reached a quick and early settlement.

"I have been conscious that any settlement will be paid by the licence fee-payers, and have taken that into account in reaching agreement with the BBC," he added. "We will now be continuing to seek settlements from other organisations that have published defamatory remarks and individuals who have used Twitter to defame me."

The peer said the damage of the Newsnight report "can't be repaired" and he now has to live with the legacy of suspicion. Ofcom on Thursday revealed it is investigating the broadcast, which led to the resignation of BBC director-general George Entwistle and has further fuelled the crisis which has gripped the corporation since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke.

The regulator has also launched a probe into ITV1's This Morning after presenter Phillip Schofield brandished a list of names of alleged abusers which he had found on the internet and handed it to the Prime Minister during a live interview, asking if he would investigate them. The stunt provoked fury last week, and ITV said that disciplinary action had been taken.

In other developments on Thursday a man in his 60s, reported to be DJ Dave Lee Travis, was bailed pending further inquiries after being arrested by detectives investigating the Savile abuse scandal

Lord McAlpine was mistakenly implicated by Newsnight's November 2 broadcast in a paedophile ring that targeted children at a care home in Wrexham. Although the programme did not name the peer - referring only to a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era - he was quickly identified online.

The peer's solicitor, Andrew Reid, told the World At One programme that action would be taken against "a lot of people" who linked the former politician's name with the unfounded allegations. Mr Reid added that a "very long list" of Twitter users had been compiled, including Sally Bercow, the wife of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, and journalist George Monbiot.

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