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November 15, 2012 5:12 pm
Twitter users who falsely linked the Tory peer Lord McAlpine to child abuse allegations have been urged by his solicitor to come forward, apologise, and negotiate an out-of-court settlement.
“We know who you are,” Andrew Reid said to the BBC. “It’s easier to come forward and see us and apologise and arrange to settle with us because, in the long run, this is the cheapest and best way to bring this matter to an end.”
He added that specialist companies had already logged each libellous Tweet and users could be tracked down.
The thousands of people who tweeted – or retweeted – libellous statements about Lord McAlpine would almost certainly lose at great expense if they tried to defend themselves in court, according to libel lawyers.
Chris Hutchings, a partner at the law firm Hamlins, said people who spread tweets written by others were not immune. “With retweeting, legally there’s no question that that amounts to a fresh publication of the libel.”
Anonymous Twitter users could also face legal action, he said, since Lord McAlpine could seek a court order to obtain information held by the microblogging website, including email addresses and other data.
Mr Hutchings said it would be “sensible” for Twitter users who had libelled Lord McAlpine to settle quickly. “Speedy apologies vastly reduce damages,” he said.
In March, Chris Cairns, the former New Zealand cricket captain, was awarded £90,000 damages by the High Court in the first Twitter libel case heard in England.
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