Speaker’s wife settles tweet libel with McAlpine

Commons Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow has settled a libel action brought by Lord McAlpine after the High Court found a tweet posted by her was highly defamatory of the Tory peer.

Speaker’s wife settles tweet libel with McAlpine

After the ruling by Mr Justice Tugendhat in Lord McAlpine’s favour, Ms Bercow said: “I have accepted an earlier offer his lawyers made to settle the matter.”

The amount of damages was not disclosed.

Her posting appeared two days after a Newsnight report last November wrongly implicated the former Conservative Party treasurer in allegations of sex abuse at Bryn Estyn children’s home in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ms Bercow denied that the tweet — “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*” — was defamatory, but Lord McAlpine, who has already received six-figure payouts from the BBC and ITV, said it pointed “the finger of blame” during a media frenzy.

Yesterday the judge agreed and said it meant Lord McAlpine was a paedophile who was guilty of sexually abusing boys living in care.

Ms Bercow said later she did not tweet “with malice”.

“I did not intend to libel Lord McAlpine. I was being conversational and mischievous, as was so often my style on Twitter.”

Speaking for Lord McAlpine, solicitor Andrew Reid said he was pleased with the judge’s finding that the tweet was defamatory.

“Mr Justice Tugendhat’s judgement is one of great public interest and provides both a warning to, and guidance for, people who use social media. It highlights how established legal principles apply to social media.”

The judge said Ms Bercow’s followers on Twitter — who numbered 56,000 — were probably largely made up of people who shared her interest in politics and current affairs and knew, by the time of her post, the elements of the story told on Newsnight.

“In my judgment, the reasonable reader would understand the words ’innocent face’ as being insincere and ironical.”

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