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McAlpine tweeters may face criminal charges

Police are to look into whether any criminal offence has been committed over the Lord McAlpine affair.

The peer, who was wrongly named as a paedophile online following a botched Newsnight investigation into child abuse at a North Wales care home, has already reached a £185,000 settlement with the BBC and his lawyers are in talks with ITV over a bigger payment.

ITV was criticised after its presenter, Phillip Schofield, brandished a list of names of alleged abusers which he had found on the internet and handed it to the Prime Minister during a live interview.

Lord McAlpine, a former Tory politician, has also vowed to pursue Twitter users who wrongly named him, asking them to apologise formally and pay a "sensible and modest amount" which he plans to donate to BBC Children in Need.

Yesterday it emerged that Scotland Yard is to start looking into whether any criminal offence has taken place in connection with the saga. It is thought crimes could include the offence of malicious communication.

A police spokesman said: "We have not received an allegation of crime at this time, however we can confirm we will be meeting with interested parties to start the process of scoping whether any offence has taken place. It is far too early to say whether any criminal investigation will follow."

Lord McAlpine's solicitor, Andrew Reid, previously said action was being considered against a "very long list" of Twitter users.

Alan Davies, a comedian, and Sally Bercow, the Commons Speaker's wife, are among the prominent figures who have already apologised for linking the peer to child abuse allegations on Twitter.