Sally Bercow 'not some kitchen table blogger'

Sally Bercow Sally Bercow has denied her tweet was defamatory

Sally Bercow, who is being sued for libel over a tweet she posted, was not "some kitchen table blogger", the High Court has heard.

Lord McAlpine is seeking damages over the tweet which he says linked him to false claims of child abuse.

The peer was falsely accused after a BBC Newsnight investigation. He was not named on the programme but was wrongly identified on the internet.

Mrs Bercow, the Speaker's wife, denies that her tweet was defamatory.

Last November, a Newsnight programme accused a "leading Conservative politician from the Thatcher years" of sexually abusing boys in the care of a children's home in Wales in the 1970s and 1980s, but it did not name Lord McAlpine.

There followed widespread speculation about the politician's identity and, two days after the broadcast, Mrs Bercow tweeted: "Why is Lord McAlpine trending. *innocent face*."

She went on to apologise in four subsequent tweets,

The BBC apologised unreservedly to Lord McAlpine for wrongly and falsely implicating him. It settled his defamation claim for £185k.

Several other high-profile figures also mentioned Lord McAlpine's name on the social networking site, Twitter.

'Sealed cave'

At Tuesday's hearing, Lord McAlpine's QC, Sir Edward Garnier, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that Mrs Bercow's Twitter following of almost 60,000 was bigger than the readership of some local newspapers.

"We are not talking about some kitchen table blogger addressing perhaps herself and one other person," he said.

"We are talking about a pretty widespread readership."

Sir Edward told court that, in the context of the Newsnight broadcast and the media coverage, only "a moron in a hurry" or an "anchorite in a sealed cave" could not have known the meaning of the tweet.

Ms Bercow's counsel, William McCormick QC, said she had promptly tweeted an apology, written letters apologising for the distress caused and making clear that the underlying allegations were untrue.

He said she had made an offer to settle the case which had not been withdrawn.

Neither Lord McAlpine nor Mrs Bercow appeared in court on Tuesday.

Granting an application by Lord McAlpine, the judge ordered that there should be a preliminary hearing on what was the actual meaning of the words used in the tweet - both a natural and ordinary meaning and an innuendo meaning.

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