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Lord McAlpine receives total of 310,000 in libel damages from BBC and ITV for wrongful child sex abuse allegationsFormer Tory Party treasurer was wrongly linked to abuse at a Wales care homeHe intends to give the money to charity, it is saidBoth broadcasters have 'apologised unreservedly' for the mistake
13:31 GMT, 18 December 2012
Lord McAlpine has today settled his libel actions against the BBC and ITV after they wrongly implicated him in child sex abuse allegations
Lord McAlpine has today settled his libel actions against the BBC and ITV after they wrongly implicated him in child sex abuse allegations.
The former Tory Party treasurer was
not at London’s High Court to hear solicitors for both apologise
unreservedly for the damage and distress caused.
He was named online by dozens of people after Newsnight claimed that a senior member of the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher had taken part in child abuse at a care home in North Wales.
And he launched his case against TV after This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield accidentally flashed a list of alleged paedophiles to camera before handing it to a bemused David Cameron.
His lawyers confirmed that the agreements involved the payment of 185,000 damages by the BBC and 125,000 from ITV, together with very substantial costs.
Lord McAlpine is also said to be in
'negotiations' with Sally Bercow, the wife of Commons Speaker John
Bercow, after she allegedly sent a tweet linking him with the Welsh
care home scandal.
He has asked for 50,000 in libel damages and an apology.
He intends to hand all money to charity, it is believed.
The peer’s counsel, Edward Garnier QC, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that the action followed a Newsnight broadcast in November about the alleged sexual abuse of boys at the Bryn Estyn children’s home in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
Two victims claimed that they suffered abuse 'at the hands of a leading Conservative politician from the Thatcher years.'
TV's This Morning included an interview with Prime Minister David Cameron by presenter Phillip Schofield, which referred to the Bryn Estyn scandal
George Entwistle being interviewed by John Humphrys on this morning's Today programme about the Newsnight error. The BBC has apologised 'unreservedly for the mistake'
The item did not name Lord McAlpine, but the programme-makers intended him to be the target of the allegations, he added.
'Unfortunately, in fact disastrously, names had already been named. Throughout the day on November 2, Newsnight’s forthcoming report had been widely trailed on the internet.
'Furthermore, Lord McAlpine’s name had been linked to it. In the aftermath of Newsnight’s broadcast, Lord McAlpine was widely identified as the subject of Newsnight’s allegations.
'In short, Newsnight made the most serious of defamatory allegations about Lord McAlpine, tarring him as a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing vulnerable young boys living in care.
'Those allegations are untrue.
'As the BBC now accepts, they were utterly baseless. These disgraceful allegations should never have been made.'
Lord McAlpine is also said to be in 'negotiations' with Sally Bercow after she sent allegedly sent a tweet linking him with the Welsh care home scandal
Sir Edward said that, before the broadcast, the BBC had not even contacted Lord McAlpine. If it had, he would have told them that he had never been to the home in question.
Furthermore, it was only after the programme aired, that interviewee Steve Messham was shown a photo of Lord McAlpine. Having seen it, he immediately withdrew his allegations and apologised.
Counsel said Lord McAlpine had nothing but sympathy for Mr Messham and for other boys who suffered abuse.
And he wished it to be known that he generally held the BBC in great esteem.
But Newsnight had broadcast the most highly defamatory allegations about him, which had not only caused him great distress and embarrassment, but had affected him to his soul.
Sir Edward said that six days after the Newsnight broadcast, ITV's This Morning included an interview with Prime Minister David Cameron by presenter Phillip Schofield, which referred to the Bryn Estyn scandal.
Schofield passed Mr Cameron a card containing a list of names which were continually associated with the allegations that he said he had found on the internet.
Counsel said ITV and Schofield accepted that Lord McAlpine's name appeared on the list, which was briefly visible to viewers.
Lord McAlpine considered that Schofield's statements and actions amounted to an encouragement, albeit unintended, to viewers to perform similar internet searches and thus caused other people to discover the link between the seriously defamatory allegations and himself.
TORY PEER'S THREAT TO TWEETERS
Up to 10,000 Twitter users are thought to have tweeted about the former Tory Party treasurer’s alleged – but subsequently disproved – involvement in child abuse.
In total the peer’s lawyers have identified 1,000 ‘original’ tweets and a further 9,000 retweets, which is when a user re-posts a comment sent to them.
They must apologise and agree to pay a nominal sum as requested to Children in Need, believed to be 5.
On the same day as the broadcast, both ITV and Schofield publicly apologised but no public apology was made directly to Lord McAlpine until November 22.
Notwithstanding that the allegations against him were shown to be false, Lord McAlpine understandably remained extremely hurt and distressed by the broadcast and was not prepared to allow it to remain unchallenged, he added.
Solicitor David Attfield, for the BBC, said it withdrew the allegations unreservedly and apologised sincerely for the great damage and distress caused.
'Following the broadcast of Newsnight on November 2, the BBC realised that it had committed a grave error in broadcasting the report complained of. The disgraceful allegations should never have been aired.
'As a result, a week later, on Newsnight on the evening of November 9, the programme issued an apology to Lord McAlpine. It has also undertaken an internal review to look into what went wrong.
'The BBC is pleased to be able to take this opportunity to apologise to Lord McAlpine before the court. It accepts that it cannot put the clock back and wishes to express its genuine remorse for the harm it has caused him.'
Ian Felstead, for ITV and Schofield, said they fully accepted and wanted publicly to state that there was no truth whatsoever in the allegations against Lord McAlpine.
'Mr Schofield sought to paraphrase a question that had previously been raised in the House of Commons and the fact that the list was briefly visible to viewers was entirely inadvertent, a mistake immediately acknowledged by ITV and Mr Schofield.
'Neither ITV nor Mr Schofield intended to make the allegations against Lord McAlpine referred to by counsel but they do accept full responsibility for the broadcast and the harm and distress caused to Lord McAlpine as a result.'
On behalf of them both, he apologised unreservedly.