BBC settles with Lord McAlpine

Lord McAlpine Lord McAlpine: recent events got into his soul

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The BBC has agreed a settlement with Lord McAlpine over a Newsnight programme that wrongly implicated him in child abuse.

The libel damages, agreed on Thursday night, come to £185,000 plus costs. 'The settlement is comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made,' the corporation said in a statement.

Lord McAlpine said: 'I am delighted to have reached a quick and early settlement with the BBC. I have been conscious that any settlement will be paid by the licence-fee payers, and have taken that into account in reaching agreement with the BBC.'

Lord McAlpine's solicitor Andrew Reid had earlier said that Lord McAlpine was 'more than aware that the ultimate people who will pay for any monies that he may receive are in fact the licence payers, the people who really own the BBC, and he is very much aware of this and hence any agreement that is reached is tempered in the light of that'.

Conservative MP Rob Wilson said it's 'a very expensive lesson for the BBC' but he acknowledged that 'a protracted court case may well have cost a great deal more'.

'Horrendous shock'

On Thursday, Lord McAlpine appeared on Radio 4's World At One and said that Newsnight should have contacted him before broadcasting the story, giving him the chance to vehemently deny the allegations.

'Of course they [the BBC] should have called me and I would have told them exactly what they learnt later on.

'That it was complete rubbish and that I'd only ever been to Wrexham once in my life. They could have saved themselves a lot of agonising and money, actually, if they'd just made that telephone call.'

He also spoke of the 'horrendous shock' of being implicated by Newsnight.

'It gets into your bones... it makes you angry. And that's extremely bad for you to be angry. And it gets into your soul and you just think there's something wrong with the world.'

He said that he had 'deep sympathy' with Steve Messham, the former care home resident who wrongly claimed he'd been abused by Lord McAlpine and has since apologised for his mistake.

But he had no plans to accept Messham's request to meet him. 'I don't want to meet him thank you... I want to get this over, I want to get it cleared up, I don't want to go there.'

Lord McAlpine said his reputation 'can't be repaired' due to the power and breadth of the BBC voice. The situation 'becomes part of your conversation, it becomes part of your voice', he told listeners.

'This is the legacy that sadly the BBC have left me with.'

The BBC, which has apologised unreservedly for the broadcast that led to the resignation of director general George Entwistle, says it shares Lord McAlpine's view, a fact that is reflected by the speed in which the settlement was reach on Thursday night.

Ofcom investigates

Ofcom is to investigate the Newsnight programme that falsely implicated a former senior Conservative as a paedophile.

The regulator will look at whether the November 2 broadcast met standards relating to unfair treatment of an individual and unwanted infringements of privacy.

The programme has already been the subject of an internal investigation led by Ken MacQuarrie.

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The BBC Scotland director identified editorial failings in the report, which led to Lord McAlpine being wrongly named on the internet as a child abuser.

MacQuarrie found that 'basic journalistic checks' had not been made, while there was 'ambiguity' relating to the editorial chain of command. His report has informed disciplinary proceedings, which are currently taking place.

Ofcom will also investigate ITV's This Morning in which a list of alleged child abusers was handed to the Prime Minister.

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