Sally Bercow settles with Lord McAlpine after tweet is found to be libellous
Sally Bercow has lost her libel battle with Lord McAlpine over a tweet that had falsely linked him with an allegation of child abuse.
The tweet, which read: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*” had appeared in November 2012, two days after BBC2’s programme Newsnight accused Lord McAlpine, the former Conservative Party treasurer, in sex abuse allegations.
Lord McAlpine had denied all allegations made by Newsnight and the BBC later had to settle a libel claim with the peer, paying £185,000 plus costs.
However, Bercow, a former Big Brother contestant and the wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, denied her tweet was defamatory of Lord McAlpine and took the case to court.
Lawyers passed a verdict on Friday and ended the six-month legal saga.
In his judgement, one of the most senior judges of Britain, Mr Justice Tugendhat, said her 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”.
He added: “If I were wrong about that, I would find that the tweet bore an innuendo meaning to the same effect.”
Bercow was not present in the court for the ruling on Friday, but has accepted the judgement to settle with Lord McAlpine.
In her acceptance statement she apologised to Lord McAlpine and said: “I very much regret my tweet, I was being conversational and mischievous, as was so often my style on Twitter and did not post the tweet with malice and did not intend to libel Lord McAlpine.”
There will be another hearing at a later date on the appropriate level of damages, unless the two parties reach a settlement.