BBC must pay abuse libel peer

Lord McAlpine
Lord McAlpine
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Lord McAlpine will receive a payment of £185,000 after a settlement was reached with the BBC over false claims made in a Newsnight report, his lawyers have confirmed.

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.

Lord McAlpine said: “I am delighted to have reached a quick and early settlement with the BBC. 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.

“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.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC has agreed terms with Lord McAlpine to settle his claim of libel against the Corporation. The settlement is comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made.”

Lord McAlpine will also receive costs under the terms of the agreement.

His lawyers have warned that legal action is also being prepared against ITV’s This Morning and a lengthy list of Twitter users who identified the peer’s name in connection with false sex abuse claims – and that it would cost them “a lot of money”.

Lord McAlpine said the damage of the Newsnight report “can’t be repaired” and he has to live with the legacy of suspicion.

He said that his legal team would ensure that anyone who brought the matter up again was “very, very foolish”.

In an interview for Radio 4’s World At One, Lord McAlpine said the BBC could have saved “a lot of agonising and money” by simply calling him before the programme went out.

Ofcom said that it was 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 is investigating 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.

Lord McAlpine was mistakenly implicated by Newsnight’s November 2 broadcast in a paedophile ring that targeted children at a care home in Wrexham in North Wales.

Although the programme did not name the peer – referring only to a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era – he was quickly identified online.

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor, Andrew Reid, told the World At One programme that action would be taken against “a lot of people” who linked the peer’s name with the unfounded allegations.

He called Schofield’s actions “very low”.

Mr Reid said 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.

He said that Schofield had effectively encouraged viewers to seek out the identity online.

Lord McAlpine said the suggestion of being a paedophile was the worst thing of which anyone could be accused.

“I don’t want to be too dramatic about the thing, but Boris (Johnson) got it right. There is nothing as bad as this that you can do to people,” he said.

“Because they are quite rightly figures of public hatred. And suddenly to find yourself a figure of public hatred, unjustifiably, is terrifying.”

Asked about his reputation, Lord McAlpine said: “No, it can’t be repaired. It can be repaired to a point, but there is a British proverb which is insidious and awful, where people say ‘There’s no smoke without a fire’, you know: ‘He appears to be innocent, but...’.”

He went on: “It’s very difficult and so this is the legacy that sadly the BBC have left me with.”

Lord McAlpine continued: “I don’t see it going away completely. I think in the light of the arrangements that I can make, my lawyer will make, anyone who does bring it up is going to be very, very foolish.”

Newsnight carried a full, on-air apology for the broadcast a week later.