BBC and ITV apologise as Lord McAlpine settles libel actions


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The Independent Online

The BBC and ITV formally apologised to Lord McAlpine at the High Court today for “disastrously” and falsely linking him to child sex abuse allegations at a Welsh care home.

The former Tory Party treasurer was not at London’s High Court to hear the broadcasters’ solicitors apologise unreservedly for the damage and distress caused.

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.

The action followed a Newsnight broadcast on BBC Two in November about the alleged sexual abuse of boys at the Bryn Estyn children’s home in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.

ITV apologised for the blunder which allowed This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield to brandish a list of senior politicians whose names he had found on the internet, when he questioned the Prime Minister about the affair. Lord McAlpine’s name was briefly visible.

Lawyers for the two broadcasters expressed “genuine remorse” and withdrew the allegations in a statement read by Sir Edward Garnier, counsel for McAlpine.

Afterwards, Andrew Reid, McAlpine’s solicitor, said that nearly 1,000 Twitter users had now written to the peer to apologise for tweets that falsely linked him to allegations of child sex abuse.

McAlpine offered not to pursue the Tweeters if they made a £5 donation to charity. However he is suing Sally Bercow, the Speaker’s wife, for £50,000 in libel damages over her online posting, after deciding to target a small number of “high-profile” Tweeters.