McALPINE LAWSUITS: Validity doubts grow as Peer’s ambulance chaser called ‘vindictive’ by former colleagues

Is it really our intention to make it easier for the next Jimmy Savile?

Alistair McAlpine’s libel ‘case’ – still untried in a proper Court of Law -  is full of holes, according to legal opinion (given to The Slog and appearing elsewhere in the media this weekend) in relation to social networking sites. It is also becoming obvious that Andrew Reid is not St Phil Anthrope.

‘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’ the Guardian reported two days ago. But as with so many things in the Guardian, ‘onscreen blunder that linked several Conservative politicians with allegations of child sex abuse’ simply doesn’t fit the facts.

As The Slog was at pains to point out following the BBC’s pathetic collapse in the face of threats, McAlpine’s name was not mentioned at any point during the Newsnight programme. Similarly, without their already existing presence on the internet, nothing in ITV’s This Morning show would’ve led anyone apart from a clairvoyant to deduce any connection between Alistair McAlpine and paedophilia.

Of course, the simple admission from McScalpine that he had a second cousin also spookily called McAlpine (who used to regularly turn up at his Golf Club covered in 12 year old caddies wearing shorts) would have explained the mistake made by (a) the BBC and then (b) Twitter users as to the identity of the man guilty of infant-buggery on an industrial scale. However, Lord McAlpine (and his brother Sir William, and the Mail on Sunday columnist David Rose) chose not to share the information with us. His Lordship has now erected a spurious defamation case against the two TV contractors, rendering him better off to the tune of some £310,000, kerr-ching Ithangyoo.

But just how sturdy is Alistair’s erection? The more I take legal opinion on it, the more it becomes clear that this defamation ‘case’ is both untried….and something of a sieve when it comes to being legally enforcible. The following opinion is from The Slog’s own counsel, who unsurprisingly wishes to remain anonymous on the grounds that one scrounger like me getting these learned opinions for free is more than enough:

“The McAlpine case is weak on three grounds. First, the evidence that his reputation was maligned by contemporary tweeting is flakey, given the pre-existence of internet rumours going back a long way; second, suing individual tweeters for £500 could easily be construed by a Judge as a ridiculous not to say greedy valuation to put on one quite possibly neutral enquiry of others; and third, singling out Twitter alone is preposterous in the context of a multivariate world of online social networking. You have Facebook, Linkedin, blog threads and a dozen other equally effective ways of innocently transmitting speculation – up to and including word of mouth gossip in the office. To set a precedent in favour of civil prosecutions against mass opinion and gossip would be ridiculous. Further, we suspect that any higher Court (especially one within the EU’s legal framework) if faced with an appeal against any judgement favouring such a view would overturn the verdict without exception.”

‘The issue of intent is much murkier with regard to mentioning someone’s name on Twitter – especially if Mr X’s guilt or innocence in relation to the media expose was inconclusive at the time. Twitter users were simply commenting in real-time on what they were seeing, without any premeditated malicious intent,’ remarks another online source.

I’m told that Sally Bercow has been given similar advice, and so we must now wait to see who the first British citizen with the balls to tell McAlpine and Reid to f**k off might be. I couldn’t possibly speculate on that, because I simply don’t know. But one or two facts from Andrew Reid’s adventurous past are emerging.

Andrew Reid does tend to fall out with people rather a lot. When one half of Reid Minty in 2008, he sued three former employees for breach of fiduciary obligations, alleging that the trio took three substantial clients with them when leaving the firm. In 99% of cases, this sort of attack doesn’t stick because it falls foul of ‘restraint of trade’ and the clients testifying that they have chosen to go with the new breakaway. When challenged, Reid backed off. “Reid’s claim is entirely misconceived and without foundation,” one of the escapees told The Lawyer, “Litigation of this nature against one’s ­former partners does nothing to advance the good standing of the profession.”

True, given his tone of voice over the McAlpine money-demands, Andrew wasn’t exactly advancing his profession; the only thing I would quibble about is whether that ‘profession’ has ever had any good standing. Says a former colleague of Reid, “He was vindictive, and over-fond of using his own firm’s resources to fire writs at everyone. He is the ambulance chaser’s ambulance chaser. But above all, he’s impossible to get on with.”

We must assume that as Lord McAlpine is such a doddery, half-demented yet innocent old codger – and thus something of a naif in such matters – he chose Mr Reid without thinking too hard about it. We must asume this, because Alistair would sue us all if we suggested otherwise. But either way, we are about to find out if bluff and bluster will win the hand.

Sally Bercow, Alan Davies and Guardian columnist George Monbiot have been formally told now that they face damages for being among the naughty “high profile Tweeters”….which McAlpine and Reid define as ‘people with more than 500 followers’. This too is a figure plucked from the air: why not 5,000? Or 50,000?

Bercow, who has 56,000 followers, tweeted: ‘Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *innocent face*’. Frankly, any judge directing to convict on the basis of that would be asking for his head in a tumbril basket. If his Lordship is seriously suggesting that it should henceforth be deemed libellous to sarcastically suggest you don’t know why someone is trending, then we might as well all go home and have our lips sewn up. It is a straightforward attack on freedom of comment, falling within the guidelines referred to above: ‘Twitter users were simply commenting in real-time on what they were seeing, without any premeditated malicious intent’.

The broader issue here, however, is the freedom of the media to seek out and reveal serious wrongdoing. Ranged largely on the side of such perpetrators are a dozen or so unscrupulous firms in London who specialise in issuing bully-boy denials. This coming week, The Leveson Enquiry reports. It is now highly likely that an Enquiry set up following a public outcry against the invasive practices of Newscorp will make it easier for the government and police force that were in league with Newscorp to get away with it again next time. Rupert Murdoch will remain an influential, unhealthy operator at the top of British politics, and no doubt – once the dust has settled – return to his old strategy of threatening to reveal the peccadillos of anyone who speaks out.

So everything is just fine then, and British justice triumphs once more.

48 thoughts on “McALPINE LAWSUITS: Validity doubts grow as Peer’s ambulance chaser called ‘vindictive’ by former colleagues

  1. Aint life strange? I came across a james mc alpine on a board of governors at a school, hes in the construction business and likes golf, weird that , does it run in the gene pool?

    Also why are governor boards stuffed with ppl in IOD CBI news international kmpg bankers hedge fund wallers military and marketing etc etc..

    Oh another question. The sky at night man. Was asked why he was never married , he did tell us that the bbc was run by lefties which was nice of him..

    • Could you explain that final paragraph, it makes no sense at all to me (yes, I do know who the TSAN man is).

      The fact that a man has never married can be due to any number of reasons. I’ve never married – it has everything to do with BDD (look it up) and nothing to do with a penchant for young men or children.

      DavidC

      • It came in an interview with mr space travel. In the article he was talking about working for the bbc he said it was all run by lefties , well the other day ginger sourpuss simone hefferlump whilst defending his nobleness claimed it was a plot by aunty beeb as it had a maniacal hatred of thatcher , also james ( im a banana ) dellinpule was ranting from the same cold war bunker. So it seemed a bit odd to me as to why the subject of mr lost in space marital status would be mebtioned at this point as its never come up before.. Just wondered if someone was worried if there was a list doing the rounds.. Nothing inferred. Of course , if the telescope cosmic detective doesnt want to tell us about his time with security bods thats up to him.

    • It seems to me the complainant has lied in saying the noble lord was not his abuser.Why he should lie is a matter of pure conjecture,cash reward or perhaps threats or possibly both who knows?.Lets call the complainant A and the noble lord B.A is taken from a care home and told he is going to a `party`.Probably a number of other boys were taken too.They enter a room,possibly in a hotel.The room has a number of men sitting around It must be presumed these men are not wearing name badges and infact are keen these young victims should never be able to identify thier abusers.It is not unreasonable to suggest the boys would have no idea who these men were,and yet years later B becomes a prominent politician and A recognises him instantly.How else would A find B`s name.Eventually as the Jimmy Savile story breaks A names B to a bbc journalist.The story is run,and then suddenly A retracts saying its mistaken identity? B has been famous since the 80s.A has known who B is since then.Its obvious it was a cover up.

  2. For other old farts out there; apparently ‘trending’ is just a term for a popular theme being followed on the Twitter thingy.
    Sorry if this spoils anyone’s fantasies.

  3. Pingback: John Ward – McAlpine Lawsuits : Validity Doubts Grow As Peer’s Ambulance Chaser Called ‘Vindictive’ By Former Colleagues – 25 November 2012 | Lucas 2012 Infos

  4. While I cannot say that Sally Bercow has ever rated very highly in my D list celebrities and would prefer to be an Old Fart than a Twitterer any day of the week….she could considerably increase her rating in my personal esteem if she were to go and tell MacAlpine to take a ‘close up and personal’ visit to the nearest taxidermist.

    Like many of these ‘Houses of Cards’ remove one of the bottom ones and gravity usually does the rest. He seriously cannot want to go through ANY court cases on this basis…surely ?! Although I for one would love to see it !

  5. ……and besides…since I am told that Twitterers only have 140 letters…..if anyone only typed in ‘MacAlpine’ then surely their defense must be…”Oh no your Lordship…I was certainly not referring to you…I was talking about your dead brother/cousin …whoever ….’cos I read The Slog !” ;)

  6. I don’t get it. The BBC who’s normally fight such crap hand over licence payers money. The licence payer should have had a say and most would have said GET STUFFED. Then ITV do the same! No mention of names on either channel, many of the tweets name no names either. Stinks of a complete set-up! A move to divert attention away from the BBC Paedo ring, the government paedo ring, and god knows what else.

    Lets face it, this stuff has been on the net for years so why now.

    And don’t forget the “I’m hurt” interview. READ HIS BOOK! It came right from the pages like a script. (don’t buy them though)

    I know, lets say our names where on the ITV list, we can sue too because everyone could plainly see our names and we are greedy bastards and want some dosh.

    Let’s hope their is a God and he has a wicked streak awaiting all involved in this scam.

    • So agree with the legal points in the article and the above post.

      Where conspiracy theories are concerned, never be suckered into making suppositions just because things seem rum. You are (as Eddie Mair said on Newsnight) ‘toast’ to the establishment if you do. Look always at the official story, which ‘they’ tell the moment something nasty breaks, before they really know what else will emerge in other words. In this case, that poor abused guy changed from a much relieved man (whose story was at last to be supported) on the Wednesday to an exhausted guy in a sorry state by the Friday, a guy saying he’d seen a photo of a certain grandee and that definitely wasn’t the man who abused him.

      Then consider you thought you knew someone (older than you) some 30 years ago who got into trouble (of any kind) and whose name you weren’t sure of. Nonetheless the police asked you to help identify him at that time, and went so far as to show you a photo of their suspect; and when you picked him out as the guy you knew, the police said ‘That’s Lord X’. Then you, in later life – being on the make, as Messham is said most likely to have been – thought, ”Hey, that guy’s now rich and famous. I can make a bob or two by exposing his past peccadilloes, especially as his name is all over the internet now, and the TV people are interested to make a programme about that silly old ‘incident’.” So the TV people make the programme, but don’t actually name him, and then someone – probably legally connected with Lord X – shows you a current photograph of Lord X. Well, apart from the fact you have had 30 years to see Lord X’s photo but didn’t (yeah, yeah!) could you manage to say of that current photo,”That is definitely NOT the guy I identified all those years ago?” Of course you couldn’t. Could you say, ”The man in that photo is a different guy from the guy whose photo the police showed me all those years ago”? Of course you couldn’t. You couldn’t be that sure about a five year old photo, let alone about a 30 year old one. And you certainly wouldn’t ever say, ”I can assure you all, beyond all doubt, that this is a different guy from the one whose mugshot I saw then.” Nor would you fail to think it odd that the police who showed you the original photo were lying through their teeth when they identified him as Lord X.

      The official line is bunkum. Steve Messham might have exonerated a certain Lord, but sure as hell it wasn’t for the reasons he gave that tired night two weeks ago. So something is being covered up by someone, that’s for sure.

      Then consider that TV programme was originally to feature to witnesses to those past wrong doings, and the second witness would have backed up your story, but he disappeared two days befoe the programme and has never been seen again, and no one has asked any questions about him – and, lo and behold, Lord X has written a book telling the world how to set up any media organisation that gets too close to a powerful man.

      Do you then consider this issued closed for ever, as the good Lord suggests it should be? I doubt it.

      in that story, and went so far as to make a programme about it, without naming the guy, but . Then

      .

  7. JW is right on the one point that should have stopped all this even getting to where it is now, let alone any further. No names at all, let alone MacAlpine’s, were mentioned on the ITV show as far as I am aware.and I watch Nesnight regularly and certainly do not recall MacAlpine’s name being mentioned.

    DavidC

    • David, I saw that Newsnight. You are correct, McA wasnt mentioned; I could only guess from what I’d come across from other sources (not twitter- being another old fart tweeting remains a mystery).

      Newsnight said something to the effect: “Someone high up in the Tory party of the Thatcher government” – one is spoilt for choice, the cabinet changed frequently because she kept sacking the wets…and there were certainly a few who seemed oddballs.

      As to the Schofield ‘stunt’, no-one could see anything on that wretched bit of paper. So ‘the list’ remained a mystery as well.

  8. His graceful Lordship and eminent man of silk Mr Reid has had the temerity to send bill40 a request for 500 quid. I have emailed the blackmailing little sh1t to inform him that he can foxtrot oscar in short order.

    Should this contemptuous little twerp contact me further I will countersue in a Chinese court and win. I will keep you posted on events.

  9. What I’m left wondering is how on earth Lord McAlpine thinks he’s going to be able to contact all these 10,000 people.

    Aside from the bureaucratic issue of writing up 10,000 nastygrams, a lot of Twitter accounts have names like, say @SpotTheDog that don’t identify someone’s real name, and they hardly ever show someone’s address.

    Yes, I know IP addresses can be traced, but my non-lawyer brain is wondering how Twitter would respond to suddenly being asked to hand over 10,000 IP addresses, or how the court would respond to an application for a court order to trace those addresses back to a real-world address.

    • If you have friends in the spooks dept which our Ally certainly has anything is possible all and all you need is a bit of hokey legislation passed by people who you were the fundraiser for and er.. Oh

  10. I have a feeling that Mr Reid is going to be the weak link in all this. Just the way he is going about this suggests he is not up to the job. After all, he knows other solicitors have been disciplined for acting in a similar fashion before. I predict next week the regulator will be breathing down his neck. They cannot possibly stand by again and watch one law firm bring the adminstration of justice and legal profession into disprepute.

  11. I’m off to wash out my eyes having read this piece, which might mean I can avoid being sued.
    Please note that my comment is in no way an endorsement of any views expressed, anywhere, none of which I have ever set eyes upon. Phew.

  12. “British justice triumphs once more”… The main reason why I publish blogs is because the mainstream media don’t pick up the topics that I’m interested in. That includes miscarriages of ‘justice’. Hence I was comforted and felt ‘justified’ by this quotation by legal and social reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832):

    “Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion, and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial.

    In the darkness of secrecy, sinister interest and evil in every shape, have full swing. Only in proportion as publicity has place can any of the checks, applicable to judicial injustice, operate. Where there is no publicity there is no justice.”

    We now need to mind the gap: between the (paid) mainstream media circus and the unpaid social media online.

    Glad you got such good legal advice, John! You deserve it, and I’m glad I can feel empowered by it!!!

    Happily blogging in your wake (and bill40 standing his ground),
    Sabine

  13. Isn’t this whole thing a big misjudged punt on behalf of those who feel they need protecting through the current libel laws?. It seems to me that, from what most legal advice is saying, the case is bound to fail. This opens up twitter (and other social media) users to feel they are invincible. The libel laws are in need of a huge overhaul (which is in the process of being done) and this case is adding grist for that to now happen allowing proper debate and comment as is enjoyed by most of the rest of the world.

  14. What we now need to find out is who at the BBC decided to cough up £185,000 of *our* money without seeking counsel as to the strength of any legal case that may have been brought. Is this individual a friend of McAlpine? For clarity, the BBC in its entire history has never settle a *potential* libel case so quickly, and for such a large amount given the very weak case the litigant would have had.

  15. I am not aware of any relationship between body dysmorhpic disorder (BDD) and paedophilia. The relationship between not forming adult attachments is more obvious.

  16. There has been a survey since this story broke, it seems they are interested in ppls
    Attitudes some of it can be seen here.

    1 in this tragic story of abuse of old eccentric slightly well off cuddly folk by habitually lying weirdos who do you believe !

    A: snivelling alcoholic druggy ( probably) benefit scrounger Steven MESSham known by his streetgang name as The Ponce

    B: Lord Alistair McAlpine bless ‘im aint he luverly , fanx guv yer a real toff an make no mistake.

    C: The British Bolshevik Corporation ( dg is head of KGB operations)

    Please tell us in words with one syllable eg No
    If you think this story should be in the nosy parker public interest.

  17. ‘Twitter users were simply commenting in real-time on what they were seeing, without any premeditated malicious intent’.
    Exactly. Morons commenting on the fact that a growing number of other ill informed wannabe journalist morons are ‘twittering’ about a certain subject does not make the subject fact. But it was taken to be so.
    I’m sorry John you can push this all you want, I am not interested in anything other than these social network idiots getting their asses handed to them, regardless of who by or his lawyers credentials

  18. MickC

    See this link describing the behaviour of another law firm and then think whether it might apply in the context of the conduct of RMPI and Mr Reid here. Arguably, there are some similarities in this to the way demands of money were made without any regard for the overall merits of the cases against alleged file sharers (this had massive publicity at the time). This seems to be an angle not picked up by legal commentators – possibly because most refuse to recognise that a code of practice for solicitors for the treatment of third parties exists. (don’t ask me why solicitors think this but I have had many debates with them about it) However, in my view if people wish to defend themselves this is potentially very useful and the first thing they should focus on to avoid the masses being pressurised into paying money to Mr Reid’s very questionable scheme.

    http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/press/davenport-lyons.page

    Solicitors Code of practice concerning the treatment of third parties.

    http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/part5/rule11/content.page

    Possible relevant sections:

    Acting in the following way(s) may tend to show that you have not achieved these outcomes and therefore not complied with the Principles:

    IB(11.7)
    taking unfair advantage of an opposing party’s lack of legal knowledge where they have not instructed a lawyer;

    IB(11.8)
    demanding anything for yourself or on behalf of your client, that is not legally recoverable, such as when you are instructed to collect a simple debt, demanding from the debtor the cost of the letter of claim since it cannot be said at that stage that such a cost is legally recoverable;

    Also read my second post on this blog site and Smith V ADVFN and the observations of the judge in the case where numerous people were pursued for online libel. It discusses overcompensation and,the conduct of the litigation (pre action protocol failures by the solicitor)

    http://inforrm.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/libel-claims-against-twitter-lord-mcalpine-and-the-restoration-of-reputation/

  19. “If his Lordship is seriously suggesting that it should henceforth be deemed libellous to sarcastically suggest you don’t know why someone is trending, then we might as well all go home and have our lips sewn up. It is a straightforward attack on freedom of comment”….

    Well we’d all better watch it. One slogger a day or two back felt one of us had:
    “..absolutely no right to suggest McAlpine should be magnanimous or proportionate”…,

    1984 anyone?

  20. Darling, thank you so much for telling it how it is. I’m so sick of all the cowardly, arse licking, halfwitted luvvies running the media these days, so found your article immensely refreshing and closer to my own views on the McAlpine money hoovering exercise.

    BTW are you going to do a piece on Cameron? Every time something comes up about him (Coulson, Brooks, police horses, e-mails, country suppers, dreadful appearance at Leveson etc) it’s ‘forgotten’ in an instant. What’s going on there? Compare say the conversely disproportionate media frenzy over Mitchell.

  21. Very interesting article, as someone who made two McA “related” tweets on that fateful night its made we feel a bit better about things. I must admit I was tempted to complete the online forms just to make things go away. I would have been more than happy to pay a few quid to charity but when it came to paying the ambulance chasing legal scum a yet undisclosed amount I began to baulk.

    Sadly I think the 20 “Celeb” Tweeters may roll over like BBC & ITV did, so it will be up to the “little” people to fight.

    Further, the cut off point of 500 followers if ridiculous as its very easy to get followers if that number is important to you (eg you can “buy” 2000 followers for $5) Surely the point is how many people actually saw the tweet you made. Seeing as I tweeted some point after midnight, i would suggest less than 20 of my followers actually saw them.

    Interesting point re Alan Davies, he tweeted early that evening, asking if anyone knew who the Tory in the Newsnight report was. I was one of many who replied (personally I gave a cryptic clue in my response without specifically naming). Does that mean AD can counter sue me for providing the info he subsequently tweeted ? AR would probably say yes and try and sign him up as a client.

  22. the elephant in the room here is that Lord McAlpine, his family & others of significant privilege appear to have known (for years, decades?) that his cousin was sexually abusing children. significantly, they all chose not to assist the abused children nor take steps to prevent the rape of other children. this lends an ironic effect to the threats issued by Lord McAlpine that make them completely unpalatable.

  23. Pingback: Lord McAlpine is a taxdodger | Edinburgh Eye

  24. Pingback: In praise of Sally Bercow « The Not So Big Society

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