Sally Bercow must tweet her apology to Lord McAlpine as a condition of rejoining the social media site.
The Speaker’s wife had earlier lost a libel case against the peer following her '*innocent face*' tweet which Justice Tugendhat ruled “highly defamatory”. As part of the settlement, Bercow agreed to apologise on Twitter if she ever reactivates her account. An account purporting to belong to the speaker’s wife with the same username issued the following apology today.
I have apologised sincerely to Lord McAlpine in court – I hope others have learned tweeting can inflict real harm on people's lives.
— Sally Bercow (@SallyBercow) October 22, 2013
Bercow posted her libellous tweet in November 2012, two days after a Newsnight report wrongly linked McAlpine to a child sex abuse ring at a Welsh childrens’ home.
The case was formally settled this morning. The High Court heard that Bercow has now apologised for her “irresponsible use of Twitter” and agreed to pay undisclosed damages and legal costs. It is understood the damages will be donated to charity.
Bercow initially denied that her tweet: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*” was defamatory. McAlpine had already settled six-figure cases with the BBC and ITV.
Mrs Bercow's QC, William McCormick, said today: "Mrs Bercow wishes and hopes that as a result of this matter other Twitter users will behave more responsibly in how they use that platform. She certainly intends to do so herself."
At the time of her tweet, she had in excess of 56,000 followers and many of them ‘retweeted’ the message.
Afterwards, Lord McAlpine's lawyer, Andrew Reid of RMPI LLP, said: "Today has seen closure of a piece of litigation which has now become the leading case in terms of internet responsibility.
"Our client had never wanted the situation to get to this stage. It was always his intention to avoid litigation if at all possible, just as it was always Mrs Bercow's intention, until today, not to provide an apology satisfactory to our client.
"It is to be hoped that lessons will be learned: This litigation could so easily have been avoided if common sense had prevailed over political positioning.
"In January of this year, Lord McAlpine made a 'without prejudice' offer to Mrs Bercow to settle at a substantially lower sum than his leading counsel, Sir Edward Garnier QC, advised that he was likely to obtain if the matter went to full trial.
"He made the offer in an attempt to to avoid the detrimental effect of litigation on his health, but sadly, Mrs Bercow was not prepared at the relevant time to avail herself of this reasonable offer."
He added that it was now a legal requirement that, if Mrs Bercow was to re-activate her Twitter account, she must formally issue on it her apology.
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