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In-house legal jobs could now involve social media nous

Posted by: Laurence Simons 26/11/12

One of the pre-conditions for legal careers tends to be a smidgen of knowledge about the law and the ability to avoid dobbing yourself in it by flouting it, but reports have suggested that a member of the Bar has done just that by getting involved with the extremely sensitive Lord McAlpine case.

Following a Newsnight report indicating that a senior Conservative was a paedophile, several bloggers and Twitter users incorrectly pinpointed Lord McAlpine as the figure in question.

Duncan Roy, who practised at the Bar for nine years and writes a blog called Scrapper Duncan, decided not to tiptoe gingerly into the legal minefield surrounding these false rumours, preferring to hurl himself through it with the gay abandon of a cocker spaniel chasing a rabbit across an A road.

Legal Cheek reports that the daring truthseeker branded McAlpine "evil" and claimed he had "a source" to back up the paedophilia allegation, which has since been proven to be completely false and scurrilous. Mr Roy has since performed a well-advised volte-face and deleted the post, although several versions of it remain accessible elsewhere in the darkest crannies of the internet.

His precipitous decision to blog about the allegations, however, has shone some light on what is likely to be an interesting case as the wronged peer threatens to sue the entire internet, possibly demanding that he is recompensed by the installation of pigeon post as the UK's primary mode of communication.

Many wonderful things have come with the emergence of Twitter as a popular social media platform - the Arab Spring, the option for Britons to enjoy roughly 75 per cent more access to pictures of cats doing slightly unlikely things and the opportunity for footballers to fully emphasise how incredibly awful they are, to name but three.

However, Lord McAlpine's proposal to launch a series of legal actions against those who wrongly named him in connection with the allegations could have serious ramifications both for social media users and people in lawyer jobs, who will now be forced to deal with the tweet-shaped Pandora's box the Tory grandee's potential action could wrest open.

His solicitor, Andrew Reid, recently suggested in an interview with BBC Radio 4 that the allegations are so serious and defamatory that his client will have little choice but to sue those involved in propagating them.

"We need to take a number of different actions. Firstly to try to get this taken down from the internet, which is not going to be easy. Then we have to look at Newsnight and ... the way in which they behaved," he added.

Those that "recklessly" spread the allegations on Twitter will also be in trouble, Mr Reid concluded. Will lawyers begin suing over blog posts and tweets? Duncan Roy - and many others - are set to find out.