BBC reaches settlement with Lord McAlpine

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Lord McAlpine
Image caption,
Lord McAlpine said he had been shocked to discover he was being accused

The BBC has settled with Lord McAlpine over his libel claim about a Newsnight broadcast which led to him being wrongly implicated in child abuse.

The damages, agreed 13 days after the broadcast, total £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.

The Tory peer had said it was "terrifying" to find himself "a figure of public hatred".

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.

"We will now be continuing to seek settlements from other organisations that have published defamatory remarks and individuals who have used Twitter to defame me."

The terms of the agreement will be announced in court in a few days' time, according to RMPI LLP, solicitors for Lord McAlpine.

Newsnight broadcast a report on child abuse in north Wales care homes earlier this month. Lord McAlpine's name was not broadcast, but he was wrongly identified on the internet.

'Public hatred'

Media caption,
The BBC's Mark Easton said it was a landmark settlement

BBC home editor Mark Easton says the BBC will apologise to Lord McAlpine in court - but Lord McAlpine will also give a statement, in what our correspondent describes as an unusual step.

Lord McAlpine will say in his statement that he still holds the BBC in very high esteem, our correspondent adds.

The BBC has previously apologised for the broadcast, and investigations are being held into the programme, including by the BBC and media watchdog Ofcom.

Lord McAlpine said "there is nothing as bad as this that you can do to people" as accusing them of being a paedophile.

"They are quite rightly figures of public hatred - and suddenly to find yourself a figure of public hatred, unjustifiably, is terrifying," he added.

Conservative MP Rob Wilson said the settlement will "incense" licence fee payers because "they are paying for a self-inflicted wound".

He said: "This is a very expensive lesson for the BBC that it must maintain the highest standards of journalism and fairness at all times.

"The settlement is also expensive and particularly hard on the licence fee payer... unfortunately, a protracted court case may well have cost a great deal more."

Lord McAlpine's solicitor Andrew Reid had earlier said that Lord McAlpine was "more than aware that the ultimate people who will paying 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."

The Newsnight report led to director general George Entwistle quitting at the weekend. Acting director general Tim Davie has said he hoped to personally apologise to Lord McAlpine.

Twitter appeal

Mr Reid has also earlier urged those who had named Lord McAlpine on social media site Twitter to come forward.

He said Sally Bercow, wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, had not yet been in touch to apologise for her tweets.

She tweeted on Thursday that she maintained her tweet was not libellous, "just foolish".

Mr Reid confirmed several prominent people had already apologised.

Ofcom is also investigating ITV's This Morning. It received complaints after presenter Philip Schofield handed the prime minister a list of alleged paedophiles during a live broadcast.

ITV director of television Peter Fincham said Schofield will remain on air, and that he "realises his mistake and lapse in ITV journalism".

Mr Fincham confirmed that he had received a letter from Lord McAlpine's legal team and would be responding to it "very quickly".

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