Brighton lawyer facing Twitter action

3:30pm Friday 23rd November 2012

By Bill Gardner

 A lawyer is facing the threat of legal action after he wrongly accused a Tory peer of being a paedophile.

Duncan Roy from Brighton named Lord McAlpine as a child abuser in a lengthy blog posted under his pseudonym Scrapper Duncan.

The peer, who was incorrectly ‘outed’ as a paedophile after a botched BBC Newsnight investigation into child abuse at a North Wales care home, has vowed to pursue web users who repeated the false allegations.

In his post, which he promoted on Twitter, Mr Roy branded Lord McAlpine “evil” and claimed he had “a source” to back up the paedophilia claim.

He also suggested: “These allegations have been known about in informed circles for many years.”

Mr Roy, who practised at the Bar until 2010, also said he was “prepared to go to prison” to protect his confidential source.

After the allegations against Lord McAlpine were proved false, Mr Roy’s post naming Lord McAlpine was swiftly removed. However, at least one version has been re-published elsewhere and remains online.

'Pay the price'

Kelly Harrison, a solicitor from Lord McAlpine’s legal team, confirmed Mr Roy’s post was being investigated.

She said: “A lot of people have said some very silly things and now they will have to pay the price.

“We will be looking at this web post before making a decision whether to take any action.”

Lord McAlpine has since said he will pursue individual action against any Twitter user who repeated the allegations who has more than 500 followers. Mr Roy has 859.

When contacted, Mr Roy praised the “soaring heights of journalism” at The Argus but refused to comment on any legal threat to him.

Lord McAlpine’s solicitor Andrew Reid previously said action was being considered against a “very long list” of Twitter users.

Cash settlement

The peer has already reached a £185,000 settlement with the BBC and his lawyers are in talks with ITV over a bigger payment.

Comedian Alan Davies and the Commons Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow are among the prominent figures who have already apologised for linking the peer to child abuse allegations.

On Wednesday it emerged that Scotland Yard is to start looking into whether any criminal offence has taken place in connection with the saga.

It is thought crimes could reportedly include the offence of malicious communication.

Twitter users, and those who might have posted information on social networking sites, could face prosecution under the Communications Act 2003 or the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

The maximum penalty, on summary conviction, is up to six months in prison, or a fine up to £5,000, or both.

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