Belfast Telegraph

Davies pays McAlpine tweet damages

Comedian Alan Davies has paid damages to former Conservative Party deputy chairman Lord McAlpine after he "re-tweeted" a Twitter post which linked the peer's name to a forthcoming TV report about a "senior political figure who is a paedophile", a High Court judge has been told.

Davies apologised for the "great damage and distress" his tweeting caused Lord McAlpine, Mr Justice Tugendhat heard.

Neither Lord McAlpine nor Davies was at the High Court in London for the hearing. Lawyers outlined details of the libel action to the judge.

Davies hoped that other Twitter users would be more aware of the "potential damaging consequences of tweeting", a lawyer representing the comedian told Mr Justice Tugendhat.

He accepted that the "allegations" about Lord McAlpine were "completely untrue", the judge was told.

Davies said later, in a statement issued through his solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis: "It is almost a year since I inadvertently tweeted a message which named Lord McAlpine. Throughout I've stood by the original public apology I issued on November last year making clear the allegations about him were false.

"In an attempt to make amends I also made voluntary donations to the NSPCC totalling £13,000.

"I hoped those steps might avoid legal action but in March press reports appeared saying I was going to be sued for £200,000.

"I offered to pay £15,000 in damages plus a contribution to costs and agreed to make today's statement in court.

"From my own experience, I am able to warn others of the dangers of re-tweeting."

Lord McAlpine is a former Tory deputy chairman and treasurer who was a "close aide" to Margaret Thatcher, Conservative prime minister, between 1979 and 1990, and had a "significant political profile" during the late 1970s and 1980s.

Sir Edward Garnier QC, for Lord McAlpine, told the judge that on the morning of November 2 last year the then "managing editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism" tweeted: "If all goes well we've got a Newsnight out tonight about a very senior political figure who is a paedophile."

Sir Edward said the prospect that the BBC current affairs programme was going to broadcast such an allegation prompted further Twitter activity.

That evening Newsnight broadcast a report about the sexual abuse of boys at the Bryn Estyn children's home in Wrexham, Clwyd, in the 1970s and 1980s, and accused an unnamed "leading Conservative politician from the Thatcher years of sexually abusing boys in care".

Lord McAlpine's solicitor, Andrew Reid, of law firm RMPI, said after the hearing: "Whilst Lord McAlpine accepts Mr Davies' apology concerning his tweet and subsequent re-tweet, the fact remains that both he and his family have been caused immeasurable distress which cannot be rectified.

"There still remain people influenced by this tweet and all the apologies in the world are not going to put the situation back to where it was."

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