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Lord McAlpine ‘to reach settlement with BBC’ over false child abuse claims

Lord McAlpine was wrongly linked with a paedophile ring. Picture: PA

Lord McAlpine was wrongly linked with a paedophile ring. Picture: PA

LORD McAlpine, the former Tory politician who was wrongly linked to a child sex abuse scandal as a result of the botched Newsnight investigation, is expected to reach a settlement with the BBC, his solicitor has told the corporation.

Lawyers for the Conservative peer indicated they were taking legal action after the programme led to him being mistakenly implicated in a paedophile ring that targeted children at a care home in Wrexham in north Wales.

The BBC today reported it was in the process of agreeing a settlement package with the former Tory Party treasurer.

Lord McAlpine said the Newsnight investigation, which has fuelled a crisis at the corporation and led to the resignation of BBC director-general George Entwistle, had left him devastated and got into his soul.

He added the whole matter could have been avoided if BBC investigators had called him and offered him the right to reply to the allegations before the report was aired.

Lord McAlpine told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme: “They could have saved themselves a lot of agonising, and money actually, if they had just made that telephone call.

“They should have called me and I would have told them exactly what they learned later on - that it was complete rubbish and that I had only ever been to Wrexham once in my life.”

He added: “It gets into your bones, it makes you angry, and that’s extremely bad for you to be angry, and it gets into your soul and you just think there is something wrong with the world.”

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor Andrew Reid told Radio 4 he was hoping to agree a settlement with the BBC today.

He said: “Lord McAlpine is more than aware that the ultimate people who will paying for any monies that he may receive are in fact the licence payers, the people who really own the BBC, and he is very much aware of this and hence any agreement that is reached is tempered in the light of that.”

Although the November 2 Newsnight programme did not name the peer - referring only to a senior Conservative from the Thatcher era - it quickly resulted in him being identified on internet blogs and social media sites.

The current affairs show later carried a full, on air apology for the broadcast.

An official report into botched investigation by the BBC’s Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie concluded Newsnight staff failed to complete “basic journalistic checks”.

Mr MacQuarrie also found there was confusion about who had the ultimate responsibility for “final editorial sign-off”, adding the programme’s editorial management structure had been “seriously weakened” as a result of the editor having to step aside over the Jimmy Savile scandal, and the departure of the deputy editor.

Although legal advice was sought over the report, no right of reply was offered to the unnamed individual at the centre of the allegation.

The programme featured an interview with Steve Messham, an abuse victim who said a senior political figure of the time abused him. He later said he wrongly identified his abuser and apologised.

 
 
 

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