Sally Bercow's Lord McAlpine tweet held to be libel

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Blogg, May 24, 2013.

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  1. At the end of a grim week at least that made me laugh, out loud as it happens.

    Suggestions that she has agreed to settle on his terms. Hope it hurts.
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  2. Ahh, a happy start to the weekend. Hope the damages are enough to bankrupt her.
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  3. Good news!
  4. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - breathe - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah!
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  5. Slightly longer version for general educational purposes. (Innocent Face)

    "81.In my judgment followers of the Defendant on Twitter probably are very largely made up of people who share her interest in politics and current affairs. They probably are people who, by 4 November, knew these elements of the story told in the Newsnight report: that Mr Messham had been abused at a children's home in Wales some 20 years or so before, that the man he identified as his abuser was a leading Conservative politician from that time, and that the decision of the BBC not to name the person Mr Messham identified was the subject of public controversy.

    82.In my judgment some followers of the Defendant probably did also have prior knowledge of the Claimant as a leading Conservative politician of those years. Some followers probably did remember him in that capacity, and some others probably had sufficient interest in politics to have read about him. 56,000 is a substantial number of people, although I do not find that all of those read the Tweet.

    83.However, in my judgment it was not necessary for a reader of the Tweet to have had any prior knowledge of the Claimant as a leading politician of the Thatcher years in order for them reasonably to have linked the Tweet naming him with what I have found they knew about the allegations in the Newsnight report. This is because the Tweet identified him by his title, Lord McAlpine, that is to say, as a peer of the realm. It is common knowledge that peers nowadays are generally people who have held prominent positions in public life, in many cases in politics, including as members of the House of Lords. The Tweet asked why the named Lord was trending, in circumstances where (1) he was not otherwise in the public eye on 4 November 2012 and (2) there was much speculation as to the identity of an unnamed politician who had been prominent some 20 years ago.

    84.In my judgment the reasonable reader would understand the words "innocent face" as being insincere and ironical. There is no sensible reason for including those words in the Tweet if they are to be taken as meaning that the Defendant simply wants to know the answer to a factual question.

    85.The Defendant does not have any burden of proof in the issue I have to decide. She does not have to offer an alternative explanation of why a peer, whose name and career is known to few members of the public today, might have been trending on 4 November 2012 without her knowing why he was trending. But where the Defendant is telling her followers that she does not know why he is trending, and there is no alternative explanation for why this particular peer was being named in the tweets which produce the Trend, then it is reasonable to infer that he is trending because he fits the description of the unnamed abuser. I find the reader would infer that. The reader would reasonably infer that the Defendant had provided the last piece in the jigsaw.

    86.That leads to the question: what is the level of seriousness of the allegation that the Claimant fits the description of the unnamed abuser?

    87.The Newsnight report was not a report of an investigation by the police (or by anyone else). Nor do the media reports suggest that they were reporting on an investigation. The Newsnight report, and all the other reports are of the allegations of a man who complained he was sexually abused. It is true that some reports also included that the unnamed person who is accused of the crime has vehemently denied it. But what is reported is the accusation. The Tweet is linked to those reports, in that it adds a name that was not in the reports themselves. So it is by implication a repetition of the accusation with the addition of the name which had previously been omitted.

    88.The effect of the repetition rule is that the Defendant, as the writer of the Tweet, is treated as if she had made, with the addition of the Claimant's name, the allegation in the Newsnight and other media reports which had previously been made without his name. It is an allegation of guilt. I see no room on these facts for any less serious meaning. The fact that the accused's denial was also reported in media (other than Newsnight) may be one of a number of factors that the Defendant can rely on in mitigation of damage, but it does not reduce the seriousness of the allegation.

    89.If the Defendant wished to avail herself of a public interest defence, such as Reynolds privilege or reportage, she would have had to plead it. She has not done so. Given the well known risk that a victim of a real crime may make a mistaken identification of the criminal, I do not find it surprising that she has not pleaded any defence of that kind.

    90.It follows that, for these reasons, I find that the Tweet meant, in its natural and ordinary defamatory meaning, that the Claimant was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care.

    91.If I were wrong about that, I would find that the Tweet bore an innuendo meaning to the same effect. But if it is an innuendo meaning it is one that was understood by that small number of readers who, before reading the Tweet on 4 November, either remembered, or had learnt, that the Claimant had been a prominent Conservative politician in the Thatcher years."

    McAlpine v Bercow [2013] EWHC 1342 (QB) (24 May 2013)
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  6. Joy unbound - (very expressive face)
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  7. Chortle
  8. She has agreed to settle on his terms?

    He has enough cash, she should be made to make an act of public contrition involving Tragalgar Square, nudity, large phallic shaped objects and a TV camera.
  9. Grownup_Rafbrat

    Grownup_Rafbrat LE Good Egg (charities)

    I'm sure she'll find a way for it to be claimed on hubby's Parliamentary Expenses. Just like the £22,000 worth of bedlinen that absolutely had to be bought when they moved into the Speaker's accommodation.

    Poor stupid woman. If only she'd been reading Private Eye for the last 15 years she'd have known that the same man made the same allegations about the same Lord back in the early nineties, only to have them dismissed by the police and a court of law.

    The glories of a University Education are lost on many people, it would seem.
  10. Definitely good news. I hope he has taken her to the cleaners.
  11. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    Don't worry, her old man will claim it all on expenses anyway. And it's not as if they'll be made homeless, more's the pity.
  12. Oh!! she is going to take Nelson's Column up the chuff, that would be worth a few TV hours.
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  13. Yes, not usually the way I feel about people but I feel quite elated at the thought of this couple being ground into the dirt, if only....
  14.'s just a pity they won't end up on some godforsaken sink estate in a crumbing tower block with the Hamiltons, Archers et al for neighbours.
  15. Some good news to start the Bank Holiday rolling. I hope he takes her for as much as he possibly can.