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BBC, smeared lord work toward settlement

LONDON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Lord Alister McAlpine, the ex-Conservative politician wrongly accused in a child sex abuse scandal, will settle with the BBC on its reporting, his lawyer said.

Lawyers for McAlpine indicated they were taking legal action after the program led to his being mistakenly tied to a pedophile ring that targeted children at a facility in Wrexham in northern Wales, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

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Attorney Andrew Reid said he hoped to reach a settlement Thursday with the BBC. Reid said during an interview on a BBC program any financial compensation was being negotiated based on the understanding it ultimately would be paid by taxpayers.

"Lord McAlpine is more than aware that the ultimate people who will paying for any monies that he may receive are, in fact, the license payers, the people who really own the BBC," Reid said. "[He] is very much aware of this and hence any agreement that is reached is tempered in the light of that."

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Speaking for the first time since the allegations were made, McAlpine said on a BBC program he had sympathy for his accuser and thanked him for having the courage to admit publicly he was wrong.

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"I was very grateful that he said that. I actually have a deep sympathy with him. He was obviously a man who suffered a lot in his life," he said. "I've been blessed and I've been very lucky but he has had a terrible time. But it wasn't me."

McAlpine said the matter could have been avoided if investigators contacted him to give him a chance to respond to the allegations.

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"They could have saved themselves a lot of agonizing, and money actually, if they had just made that telephone call," he said.

While the Nov. 2 "Newsnight" report didn't name McAlpine, it referred to a senior Conservative politician from the Thatcher era. The report led to McAlpine being identified on Internet blogs and social media sites.

Reid also urged people who named his client on various online venues to come forward and apologize, warning, "We know who you are."

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The current affairs show later carried an on-air apology.

The Telegraph said an official report determined "Newsnight" staff didn't complete "basic journalistic checks."

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