The extraordinary story of Lord McAlpine’s libel settlements continues. The former Conservative Party Treasurer has settled his claims against Philip Schofield and ITV for £125,000. The claims arose out of a “This Morning programme” broadcast on 8 November 2012 during which the presenter handed the prime minister a list of names of alleged abusers he had found on the internet.
It was said that the names on the list were accidentally visible to viewers for a short time. A complaint was made to OFCOM about the incident.
Lord McAlpine’s solicitor, Andrew Reid, told the BBC his client was “pleased” with the size of the ITV settlement, which he described as “pragmatic”.
“We accepted the legal argument that the Newsnight programme had effectively set the pot – it was already boiling at that point. And the Schofield stunt added fuel to the fire that was already there and we had to take that into account.”
It appears that the parties intend to make a Joint Statement in Court in the near future.
Mr Reid confirmed that legal action will now be taken against other parties, such as newspapers and high-profile users of the social-networking site Twitter. The interview can be heard here:
In the course of his interview, Mr Reid mentions that his firm has set up a website for those who wish to apologise. Documentation is available on the website of his firm, RMPI.
This consists of
Two points can be mentioned.
First, it is difficult at first sight to see what the damages are for. It has not, as far as we are aware, been suggested that Lord McAlpine’s name was seen by viewers of “This Morning” when the list was handed to the Prime Minister. The fact that some viewers might have speculated that Lord McAlpine’s name was on the list does not make ITV or Mr Schofield responsible for publishing a defamatory allegation against him.
Second, this settlement means that Lord McAlpine has now received a total of £310,000. This is already in excess of the maximum “libel damages ceiling” of £270,000. As we pointed out in an earlier post, in the ordinary course, it might be expected that such an award would be reduced to take into account early settlement and apology. It is, nevertheless, clear from Mr Reid’s interview today that his client intends to pursue Twitter users with more than 500 followers for further damages. Many will argue that, despite the obvious hurt and damage caused by the false allegations made against him, Lord McAlpine has now been “over-compensated” by the standards of English libel law.