BBC pays HK$2.23m to Alistair McAlpine over defamation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 2:32am

The BBC will pay a former British politician £185,000 (HK$2.23 million) in damages over a news report that led to him being falsely accused of child sex abuse.

"The BBC has agreed terms with Lord McAlpine to settle his claim of libel against the corporation," said a BBC statement on Thursday. "The settlement is comprehensive and reflects the gravity of the allegations that were wrongly made."

The statement confirmed that Alistair McAlpine, who was Conservative Party treasurer under former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, would receive £185,000 plus costs and a statement would be read in court to apologise for the allegations.

McAlpine responded: "I am delighted to have reached a quick and early settlement with the BBC. I have been conscious that any settlement will be paid by the licence fee-payers, and have taken that into account in reaching agreement with the BBC.

"We will now be continuing to seek settlements from other organisations that have published defamatory remarks and individuals who have used Twitter to defame me."

The BBC has already apologised for a report broadcast by its flagship current affairs programme Newsnight about abuse at a children's home in Wrexham in Wales in the 1970s. The report did not name the politician, but he was quickly identified on social networking sites.

The false allegations, plus criticism for spiking a report about child abuse claims surrounding late presenter Jimmy Savile, plunged the BBC into crisis.