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Lord McAlpine sues Sally Bercow for 50,000 over Twitter slur after botched BBC documentary led to him being wrongly identified as a paedophileLord McAlpine has instructed his lawyers to file formal proceedingsMrs Bercow has consistently denied that her Tweet was defamatoryShe has instructed City of London lawyers Carter-Ruck to represent her

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UPDATED:

23:14 GMT, 13 December 2012

Sally Bercow is being sued for 50,000 by Lord McAlpine after she sent an online message linking him to sex abuse at a care home.

The wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow faces an expensive court battle after she used Twitter to name the former Conservative Party treasurer following a botched BBC investigation.

Lord McAlpine 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.

Sally Bercow

Sally Bercow

Lord McAlpine has served a claim against Mrs Bercow, who has denied her Tweet was defamatory

Now it has emerged that last week the
peer instructed his lawyers, Andrew Reid, to file formal proceedings for
libel against Mrs Bercow after the lawyers had spent several weeks
attempting to settle with her out of court.

He has asked for 50,000
in libel damages and an apology. If Mrs Bercow loses, she will have to
fork out tens of thousands of pounds on top of this to pay for both
sides’ legal costs.

Sally Bercow's apology on Twitter for 'fanning the flames' of accusations against Lord McAlpine

Sally Bercow's apology on Twitter for 'fanning the flames' of accusations against Lord McAlpine

Friends of the couple say the McAlpine lawsuit has led to renewed strain on Mrs Bercow  and her marriage t o House of Commons Speaker John Bercow

Friends of the couple say the McAlpine lawsuit has led to renewed strain on Mrs Bercow and her marriage t o House of Commons Speaker John Bercow

The offending tweet to her 57,000 followers came
on November 4, when she wrote: ‘Why is Lord McAlpine trending *innocent
face*’ Asterisks around words in tweets refer to a bodily action – in
this reference Mrs Bercow is apparently pulling a sarcastic innocent
face after typing her message.

Outspoken Mrs Bercow has always denied
her tweet was libellous, saying it was merely mischievous. Now she has
instructed City lawyers Carter-Ruck to represent her.

A spokesman for
the firm said: ‘Lord McAlpine has issued and served proceedings for
libel against Sally Bercow and we are representing her. He put in a
claim of 50,000.’

The formal filing of Lord McAlpine’s libel claim is the first sign that the dispute could result in a trial at the High Court.

Reactivated: Sally Bercow tweeted that she has learnt lessons from her recent Twitter gaffes

Reactivated: Sally Bercow tweeted that she has learnt lessons from her recent Twitter gaffes

Reactivated: Sally Bercow Tweeted last night that she has learnt lessons from her recent Twitter gaffes

On best behaviour: Mrs Bercow later added that she has her fingers crossed that her Tweets won't land her in any more hot water

Lawyers
for the former Tory treasurer have previously said he would target 20
‘high-profile tweeters’ over the defamatory allegations, which were made
on various social networks that incorrectly linked him with child sex
claims made on Newsnight.

At the time, Mrs Bercow defended her
original tweet, tweeting to her 56,000 followers: ‘Final on McAlpine: am
VERY sorry for inadvertently fanning flames. But I tweet as me,
forgetting that to some of u I am Mrs bloody Speaker.’

She temporarily deleted her Twitter account after the uproar, but she revived it weeks later.

Lord
McAlpine has already agreed a 185,000 deal with the BBC and a 125,000
package with ITV after This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield
accidentally flashed a list of alleged paedophiles to camera before
handing it to a bemused David Cameron.