A tweet by Commons Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow pointed “the finger of blame” at Tory peer Lord McAlpine during a media frenzy over allegations of child sex abuse, a judge has heard.
Mrs Bercow was at London’s High Court yesterday for the hearing into the meaning of the allegedly libellous tweet, posted two days after a Newsnight report last November wrongly implicated the former Conservative Party treasurer in claims about events at a children’s home in the 1970s and 1980s. She has always denied that the tweet – “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*” – was defamatory.
Lord McAlpine says it meant he was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care, and wants damages.
Sir Edward Garnier QC said it would be difficult to think of a more serious meaning than the one advanced by Lord McAlpine, who was not in court.
He told Mr Justice Tugendhat that his case was founded on the circumstances – the media frenzy over a story that spread “like wildfire”. It was also necessary to consider the words in isolation.
“The tweet, by itself, suggests that ‘Lord McAlpine’ has done something wrong. Drawing attention to someone and then adding the expression ‘innocent face’ hints at wrongdoing and negates any suggestion that the tweet was a neutral query to which the defendant was looking for an answer. The inclusion of the words ‘innocent face’ was giving a nudge and a wink to readers.”
The judge reserved his decision.