Lord McAlpine pursues legal action against Twitter users

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor Andrew Reid has pledged to sue everyone who tweeted his client’s name in relation to mistaken sexual abuse allegations.

Andrew Reid
Andrew Reid

The RMPI lawyer has been instructed by former Tory treasurer Lord McAlpine to negotiate a compensation settlement from the BBC for the Newsnight programme that linked him to historic child sex abuse in a North Wales care home.

Reid has brought in One Brick Court libel silk Sir Edward Garnier QC as counsel (9 November 2012). Reid has also urged those who then named Lord McAlpine on Twitter to come forward.

He told the BBC’s World at One that he had a list of people who had identified his client in the mainstream media and online who he would be contacting and taking action against. He added that some prominent people had already apologised.

Reid said: “We know who you are and what you have done. It’s easier to come forward and see us and apologise and arrange to settle with us because, in the long run, this is the cheapest and best way to bring this matter to an end.”

Reid has issued a 14-page letter before action to ITV’s This Morning after presenter Philip Schofield apologised for handing over a list of names he said were being named online as paedophiles to Prime Minister David Cameron. This was “very, very low,” said Reid, who has given the programme 48 hours to respond.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has begun an investigation into Newsnight and ITV.

McAlpine said: “It [my reputation] can be repaired to a point, but there’s a British proverb which is insidious and awful, that there’s no smoke without fire. This is the legacy the BBC has left me with.”

Reid claimed that the public is fed up of “trial by Twitter” and said: “Very sadly we’re going to have to take action against a lot of people. It’s a very long list and there are other broadcasters and we will be getting to them.

“We’ve been inundated by the public wanting us to deal with this problem of Twitter. Interestingly, we’ve been watching people taking down what they put on Twitter, but what they don’t understand is that once it’s there you can’t take it down, and we already have the information.

“What starts as one [tweet] ends up at 100,000 or more in some cases.”

Update: The BBC announced on the evening of 15 November that it had settled libel claims brought against it by Lord McAlpine over the Newsnight broadcast. The damages, agreed 13 days after the broadcast, total £185,000 plus costs.