McAlpine and the Met – why are the police involved?

What the hell are the Met and McAlpine up to? Libel/defamation is not within the police’s remit. It’s a civil offence, not a crime – the Met has no dog in this fight.

There might conceivably be a very small proportion of tweeters who were stupid enough to have issued threats against McAlpine, though if the number is significant I’ll eat my keyboard. However, this is still not a justification for the Met to gratuitously insert itself in to what, at this moment, is a purely civil matter.

The way this SHOULD go is that McAlpine’s lawyers, if they actually have the evidence they claim to have, should pass on any threats they come across to the police. It is manifestly not the job of the police to go rummaging around, just on the off-chance,  in what, right now, isn’t even a libel case – it’s just threats and bluster. Smells a bit like intimidation to me.

Were you, or I, to pitch up at New Scotland Yard with a print-out of 10,000 tweets and retweets and Say, “Hey, guys, I think there might be some threats in here, can you have a look?” we’d be shown the door in very short order, and rightly so, so why is McAlpine being treated differently, and how much taxpayer’s money will be squandered as the Met interferes in this case?

What McAlpine’s lawyers will have at the moment – or, rather, what they claim to have – is a list of 10,000 nicknames and IP addresses (the latter can change at any time, for many users, so are of limited value), plus the tweets/RTs. The only legal way forward is for McAlpine’s lawyers to arm themselves with court orders for everyone concerned, and ask Twitter to release the names of the account holders. Assuming, of course, that the names Twitter has are actually real.

Twitter, however, not being bound by UK law, can simply tell them to bugger off. If that happens they can then take their case(s) to a US court, who might, or might not, co-operate, the first amendment right to freedom of speech being all but sacred in the US, but if they did, Twitter would have to comply.

We are a very long way from that point right now. Apart from the relatively few Twitter users who tweet in their own name (and I’ll be surprised if any were dumb enough to tweet libellously), the lawyers very likely have nothing useable at the moment.

If McAlpine is so sure he can make his cases against 10,000 people, then he should get off his fat arse and set the legal wheels in motion – not encourage the Met to go on a fishing expedition.

That, or just shut the hell up.


8 thoughts on “McAlpine and the Met – why are the police involved?

    • What I’d like to know is why McAlpine had his lawyers scanning the web for any mentions of his name in the first place. Why did he have reason to expect his name would crop up at all? I’m not, of course, implying anything at all by asking that, but I think it’s a fair question.

  1. The reason all this happening I suspect is because McAlpine’s lawyer knows any case against individual Twitter users will be dismissed by the courts as an abuse of process. I think it is a tactic to obtain details of Twitter users and obtain settlements before things reach that stage. Apparently his solicitor has today issued ‘reconciliation forms’ on a website for Twitter users to fill out to facilitate settlement.

    There is something very sinister and ugly about all this. I suspect this is all going to backfire very badly, one way or another.

    • There does seem to be an obsession with trying to get people to incriminate themselves – entrapment, anybody? Don’t think that holds water in British jurisprudence, but if they have to go cap in hand to US courts, where they take an extremely dim view of it, it’ll wreck their case(s).

      However this pans out, it’s going to be a reality check for the UK parts of Twitter and the Web – any imagined right to say what you like also comes with the right to get your arse sued. This is not America, and there is NO First Amendment right to mouth off with impunity.

      There never has been a right to freedom of speech in this country – just ask the shade of Thomas à Becket how well it worked out for him. Or Ian Hislop who, as editor of Private Eye, has probably spent more time in libel trials than anyone else.

      Oh – and if anyone is minded to dispute that, all you have to do is show me the relevant statute. In your own time . . .

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  3. Not sure about entrapment but most likely a breach of Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) rules concerning the treatment of unrepresented defendants. The SRA acted against other law firms which took part in the scandal known as ‘Speculative invoicing’ and fined the partners involved. Potentially some similarities with this as thousands of members of the public were on the receiving end of letters demanding money.

    Also read this case. The judge criticised a solicitor for doing some of the same things as Mr Reid is arguably doing now. Also the case involves multiple defendants as now.

    If people like yourselves e-mail them, they are likely to act as complaints have already been registered. Just send them a few lines about the way the lawyers are handling this. At the very least, given the unprecented scale the SRA must monitor the situation before it escalates out of control.

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