Lawyer: BBC deal with wronged politician likely

Lawyer: BBC to settle soon with UK politician wrongly implicated in child abuse report

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- A lawyer for the politician wrongly implicated in a child sex abuse scandal says his client is likely to reach a settlement soon with the BBC and may sue people who named him on Twitter.

Lawyer Andrew Reid said Thursday that a deal between Alistair McAlpine and the broadcaster is imminent.

The BBC has already apologized for linking McAlpine, a member of the House of Lords, to child sex abuse that happened decades ago in Wales. The mistaken report, broadcast nearly two weeks ago, has caused turmoil within BBC management ranks and led to the resignation of its chief.

McAlpine, 70, told BBC radio he had been shocked by the report, which did not directly name him but led to Internet chatter about his purported role. He said the BBC had not contacted him to try to verify the report before it was televised on its "Newsnight" program.

"They should have called me and I would have told them exactly what they learned later on — that it was complete rubbish," he said.

He expressed sympathy for the sex abuse victim who had mistakenly told BBC that McAlpine was the culprit, pointing out that the victim had suffered greatly because of the abuse.

He seemed shaken by the accustions against him: "To find yourself a figure of public hatred, unjustifiably, is terrifying."

The BBC's crisis involving coverage of child sex abuse started last month when it was heavily criticized for deciding not to report allegations of shocking abuses committed by one of its top hosts, the late Jimmy Savile, who died last year at age 84.

New questions have been raised about the possible role in the Savile scandal of Mark Thompson, who was BBC director general until Sept. 16 and this week became chief executive officer of the New York Times Co.

Thompson has said he did not know about the allegations against Savile and was not involved in the decision to shelve a BBC documentary about the abuses, but critics have said this claim may be undermined by a legal letter written on his behalf in early September that advised the Sunday Times of London not to publish a story about the Savile allegations.

A lawyer who saw the letter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality issues confirmed its contents.

Ed Williams, a spokesman for Thompson in London, said Thompson would not comment directly about the letter and referred instead to comments Williams had made to Stewart Purvis, a blogger and journalism professor with extensive experience in television news.

In an email to Purvis that was posted on the blog, Williams said it was a "common occurrence" for legal letters to be written at the BBC and reiterated that Thompson had not been aware of the allegation against Savile.

"He verbally agreed to the tactic of sending a legal letter to the paper, but was not involved in its drafting," Williams told Purvis.

Critics of Thompson's role in the Savile scandal found this unconvincing.

Rob Wilson, a Conservative Party lawmaker who has challenged Thompson's explanation, said the former BBC chief had not yet given a "definitive" account of his knowledge about the Savile allegations.

"Now it appears legal threats were issued using his name against a newspaper over claims that he hadn't bothered to read, let alone investigate, but which turned out to be true," Wilson.

The Metropolitan Police on Thursday arrested a man in his 60s in connection with the wide-ranging Savile investigation. A police statement said some 450 alleged victims have now come forward.

___

Associated Press writers Paisley Dodds and Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

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