ITV to pay Lord McAlpine £125,000 in damages

Broadcaster agrees to pay damages plus legal costs to retired Tory politician after Phillip Schofield blunder on This Morning

ITV has agreed to pay Lord McAlpine £125,000 in damages plus legal costs, in a settlement over Phillip Schofield's onscreen blunder that linked several Conservative politicians with allegations of child sex abuse.

In a statement on Thursday ITV and Schofield offered an "unreserved apology" for the This Morning gaffe, with a statement due to be read in open court at a later date.

The This Morning presenter brandished a list of names culled from the internet of Tory politicians allegedly linked to child sex abuse, handing it over to David Cameron, whom he was interviewing at the time. Some of the names were said to be visible to viewers using their pause button.

McAlpine said he was "pleased to have reached a pragmatic settlement with ITV". His law firm, RMPI, said in a statement that ITV has agreed to "remove from public records all media coverage relating to the defamatory incident".

"The settlement reflects the fact that this defamatory incident was aired on ITV post publication of the BBC Newsnight programme, which originally brought this matter into the public domain," the law firm said.

"ITV and Phillip Schofield have now reached agreement with Lord McAlpine to settle his libel claim, made in relation to the This Morning programme broadcast on 8 November 2012," the broadcaster said. "ITV and Phillip Schofield apologise unreservedly to Lord McAlpine, have agreed the terms of a statement to be made in open court, and have agreed to pay him damages of £125,000 and his legal costs."

The broadcaster's libel settlement is £60,000 less than the £185,000 deal McAlpine's solicitors struck with the BBC following the botched Newsnight report that led to him being wrongly accused of child abuse on Twitter.

There had been widespread speculation that as a commercial broadcaster ITV would be pressured to pay more than the BBC.

Andrew Reid, the solicitor for McAlpine, said that ITV had "destroyed my client's reputation".

McAlpine is also pursuing libel action against people who used Twitter to repeat the defamatory claim.

Reid said that the ITV settlement did not mark the end of McAlpine's pursuit of those that have libelled him, adding that there is still a "hard core" retweeting the allegations on Twitter.

"We have met with senior officers from Scotland Yard," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme. "There are a hard core of people retweeting, acting maliciously, which is illegal. And no doubt in due course the police will investigate that or not, that is up to them, not us."

Reid added that he is not on a "crusade" but until he is told otherwise he will continue to pursue anyone believed to have libelled McAlpine.

"You've got to understand it is not for me to say [when legal action will stop], I'm not running a crusade or campaign," he said. "I take my instructions from Lord McAlpine. At this moment in time I've not received instructions to desist."

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Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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