Lawyers for Lord McAlpine are demanding that ITV pays more in libel damages than the BBC over false claims linking him to child sex abuse.
The broadcaster has been given until this afternoon to respond to a demand to pay damages to the former Conservative Party treasurer. He accepted £185,000 plus costs from the BBC last week over a Newsnight report that the corporation admitted had been broadcast without undertaking “basic journalistic checks”.
A spokesman for Lord McAlpine said it was “quite clear” ITV would have to pay significantly more after Phillip Schofield, the co-host of This Morning, handed David Cameron live on air a list of names of alleged abusers that was briefly visible to viewers Lord McAlpine’s spokesman said that the peer had restricted the demand for compensation from the BBC because he was conscious that licence-payers’ money was involved. The same situation did not apply to his action against the commercial broadcaster. “This was also done in broad daylight in a premeditated way in front of the Prime Minister. It was that programme that prompted Lord McAlpine to come out with his statement,” the spokesman said.
The peer, who is in poor health, issued a statement on November 9 that denounced “wholly false and seriously defamatory” suggestions that he had been involved in the paedophile scandal at a children’s home in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s.
ITV has issued written warnings to Mr Schofield and four members of the programme’s production team. A spokesman for the broadcaster said that it had received a letter from solicitors for Lord McAlpine and would be responding.
The actor and comedian Alan Davies is among thousands of Twitter users facing libel claims for linking the peer to the scandal.
I can’t actually recall where I read it. But someone, yesterday, was pointing out a very interesting legal fact.
When there is an obvious case of widespread libel, each and every instance of such a libel is not considered separately. They are, for want of a better word, cumulative. More specifically, damages are cumulative.
Each and every person who libelled, who repeated it, are not treated as being the one and sole libeller. Rather, all are treated as having committed the one offence.
Purely as an example, say that the damge to a reputation was worth damages of £10 million (one might think this a reasonable enough sum actually, it being higher than any other set of libel damages ever). It is all who have libelled together who should then cough up £10 million collectively. Not, as some might assume, £10 million each.
No, they’re not jointly and severally liable or anything, but that’s still a very interesting point, don’t you think?