Magazine article The Spectator

A Million Little Libels

Magazine article The Spectator

A Million Little Libels

Article excerpt

It goes without saying that Lord McAlpine has been horribly wronged. He has been libely accused of a crime that not only deeply offends decent people but that provokes murderous outrage in others. Yet the zealousness of his lawyers is no cause for celebration - even if, as reported, the peer will only demand 'sensible and modest' compensation from most of the 10,000 tweeters who sullied his name, and will give it all to charity.

It is only thanks to Lord McAlpine's wealth that he has been able to take the course of threatening thousands of tweeters with libel action. Few of those who are being pursued have the means to defend themselves in court: they have no option but to settle.

Lord McAlpine is beyond doubt innocent of the charges which were laid at his door by a poorly researched Newsnight investigation.

But our libel laws have equally commonly been used by rogues such as Robert Maxwell, whose larcenous activities only came to light after his death, and Jimmy Savile, who used the threat of libel to suppress reporting of his abusive activities while he was alive. …

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