McAlpine Set for June Trial Over Twitter Posts by Speaker’s WifeKit Chellel
Alistair McAlpine, the former U.K. politician wrongly accused of being a pedophile, won the right to a June trial on the meaning of Twitter posts by Sally Bercow, a lawmaker’s wife he is suing for libel.
McAlpine’s lawyers persuaded Judge Michael Tugendhat there should be two court hearings in his defamation suit. The first as early as June will deal with whether Bercow’s comments on Twitter Inc.’s social-media service were libelous, while the second will decide on any damages.
Bercow, who is married to House of Commons speaker John Bercow, wrote a post in November last year asking why McAlpine, a member of the British House of Lords, was trending on Twitter. The comments followed a false report aired by British Broadcasting Corp., which hinted that a senior politician had abused children without naming him.
“You would have had to have been a moron in a hurry,” not to have understood the true meaning of Bercow’s post, McAlpine’s lawyer Edward Garnier said at a London court hearing today. She had about 60,000 followers on the service. “We are not talking about some kitchen table blogger,” Garnier said.
Bercow’s lawyers argued there should only be one trial to determine whether the comments where defamatory and how much should be paid in compensation. Nigel Tait, one of her legal team, declined to comment after the judge rejected their arguments.
“Clearly the will of the court is not the will of Mrs. Bercow,” Andrew Reid, another lawyer for McAlpine, said outside court.
The Twitter posts could have had “any number of meanings that won’t be defamatory,” one of Bercow’s lawyers William McCormick told the court.