15 November 2012 - 2:17pm | posted by | 0 comments

Lord McAlpine lawyer warns: 'Let it be a lesson that trial by Twitter is very nasty', adding surprise that Sally Bercow hasn't apologised

Lord McAlpine lawyer warns: 'Let it be a lesson that trial by Twitter is very nasty', adding surprise that Sally Bercow hasn't apologisedLord McAlpine lawyer warns: 'Let it be a lesson that trial by Twitter

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor Andrew Reid is insisting it will be ‘cheaper’ for those who tweeted or retweeted comments to come forward, whilst saying he is 'most surprised' that Sally Bercow has not yet come forward for her tweets, although she has previously apologised on Twitter.

Speaking to Radio 4's The World At One, Reid mentioned the fact that Bercow, the wife of the Commons' speaker, had tweeted 'Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*'. He added that Bercow was one of the 'well known' tweeters who would be pursued by McAlpine, adding: "She hasn't yet been in touch and apologised and I am most surprised she hasn't done so. Hopefully she will and reach an arrangement with us."

Reid warned: "Let it be a lesson to everyone that trial by Twitter, trial by the internet, is a very nasty way of hurting people unnecessarily, and it will cost people a lot of money," adding that some people were deleting tweets they had sent, not realising "we have all the information."

"What we are basically saying to people is, 'look we know, in inverted commas, who you are; we know exactly the extent what you have done and it's easier to come forward and apologise and arrange to settle us because this is cheaper'."

Guardian columnist George Monbiot made several tweets – which have now been deleted – including ‘I looked up Lord #McAlpine on t’internet. It says the strangest things', and has since apologised. However, Reid hinted that Monbiot may still have to pay a settlement.

The Monbiot apology, which has also been published online, read: "I have done a few stupid things in my life, but nothing as stupid as this. The tweets I sent which hinted – as I assumed to be the case – that Lord McAlpine was the person the child abuse victim Steve Messham was talking about were so idiotic that, looking back on them today, I cannot believe that I wrote them.

"But I did, and they are unforgiveable. I helped to stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him. I have set out, throughout my adult life, to try to do good; instead I have now played a part in inflicting a terrible hurt upon someone who had done none of the harm of which he was wrongly accused. I apologise abjectly and unreservedly to Lord McAlpine.

"What follows is in no sense an attempt to excuse the tweets I wrote, but simply to try to explain them.

"I knew that Steve Messham had been treated appallingly, and I believed that the terrible things done to him had been compounded by a denial of recognition and a denial of the recourse to the law which was his due. When I saw his interview on Newsnight I was very upset. I trusted his account unquestioningly. I was horrified by what he said, and by the fact that the identity of the man he was talking about appeared to have been kept secret for so long.

"I felt a powerful compulsion to do what I have done throughout my career: to help the voiceless be heard. But in this case I did so without any of the care I usually take when assessing and reporting an issue. I allowed myself to be carried away by a sense of moral outrage. As a result, far from addressing an awful injustice, I contributed to one.

"I have acted in an unprofessional, thoughtless and cruel manner, and I am sorry beyond words."

UPDATED: Sally Bercow has since tweeted 'I guess I'd better get some legal advice then. Still maintain was not a libellous tweet - just foolish ', adding 'Anyway, hey ho. Best not comment any more til seen a lawyer.'

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