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Bercow told to pay compensation after libel battle

Bercow told to pay compensation after libel battle

A long-running legal battle between Sally Bercow and Lord McAlpine has finally ended.

Ms Bercow was taken to court by the peer after she tweeted "Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*" in response to allegations by BBC and ITV that he was involved in the sexual abuse of children at Bryn Estyn care home in the 1970s and 1980s.

While Ms Bercow, who is the House of Commons speaker's wife, did not directly accuse the retired businessman and adviser to Margaret Thatcher of doing anything wrong, it was concluded at the High Court that she used her huge Twitter following to defame Lord McAlpine's reputation.

Lord McAlpine has been cleared of any wrongdoing and was not involved in the abuse of children at the north Wales care home. He had also previously sued the BBC and ITV for accusations against him and won compensation following their inability to prove claims he had committed sex crimes.

The former businessman has now been awarded a compensation lump sum and Ms Bercow must issue a formal apology if she wants to be able to use the Twitter social networking service again in the future.

Lord McAlpine's lawyer confirmed his client was happy about the win and commented: "Our client had never wanted the situation to get to this stage. It was always his intention to avoid litigation if at all possible, just as it was always Mrs Bercow's intention, until today, not to provide an apology satisfactory to our client.

"It is to be hoped that lessons will be learned: this litigation could so easily have been avoided if common sense had prevailed over political positioning."

This case has been highlighted by some media figures as being a potential legal test for the use of Twitter and people will now likely be more careful about spreading gossip and rumours on the online service.

It is unclear if Ms Bercow will give a full, public apology for her defamation.

By Chris Stevenson

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