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The largest number of defendants in British legal history? Twitter users braced for barrage of lawsuits from Lord McAlpine


Rob Williams
Monday 19 November 2012 13:50 GMT

Users of the social networking site Twitter who wrongly linked Tory peer, Lord McAlpine, with the North Wales care home child abuse scandal, are bracing themselves for a barrage of lawsuits.

Lawyers for McAlpine are thought to have identified 1,000 original tweets and 9,000 retweets - which is when a user re-posts a comment from someone else's timeline - for legal action.

Lord McAlpine is also said to be planning to sue ITV after 'This Morning' presenter Philip Schofield accidentally showed a list of alleged paedophiles on camera.

McAlpine's solicitor, Andrew Reid, said the presenter had 'embarrassed the Prime Minister and destroyed the reputation of my client'.

Mr Reid has reportedly written a 15-page letter to ITV encouraging them to settle.

The former Tory treasurer has already agreed a settlement of £185,000 with the BBC after it broadcast a now-discredited report into sexual abuse allegations at the Bryn Estyn care home in Wrexham.

McAlpine said he had tempered the claim he made against the BBC because it was publicly funded, but would be pursuing ITV for substantially more in damages.

The BBC report prompted a number of tweets, subsequently proven to be false, accusing Lord McAlpine of being a child molester.

Celebrity Twitter users, including the Speaker's wife, Sally Bercow, and comedian Alan Davies, could be targeted by lawyers after they mentioned the peer in their accounts.

Alan Davies tweeted his 440,000 followers after the BBC Newsnight report asking: 'Any clues as to who this Tory paedophile is...?'

He then retweeted one of his followers who had named Lord McAlpine.

The comedian has so far refused to comment.

Sally Bercow, wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, tweeted to her 59,000 followers on November 4: 'Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*.'

On Friday she defended her actions tweeting that: "Loving my trial by tabloid, mind. I never said Lord McAlpine paedophile - just noted he trending. Nor did I tweet about *that* Newsnight. This is totally politically motivated, I tell you. And I don't do conspiracy theories as a rule."

Around 40 of the individuals targeted by McAlpine's lawyers have reportedly already contacted the peer to apologise.

His legal team are thought to be planning to make these individuals pay a nominal sum of £5 to a children's charity, though his lawyers are expected to deal with celebrity tweeters differently.

If pursued it is thought the case could involved the largest number of defendants in British legal history.

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