The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

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McCanns v Bennett - Judgment & Sentencing*

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Tony Bennett speaks outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Tony Bennett speaks outside the Royal Courts of Justice

 

Judgment is delivered on 21 February 2013. See here

Tony Bennett is found guilty of contempt and given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.

Royal Courts of Justice Cause List, 20 February 2013
Royal Courts of Justice Cause List justice.gov.uk

 
Royal Courts of Justice Cause List for 21 February 2013

COURT 14

Before MR JUSTICE TUGENDHAT

Thursday, 21st February 2013

At half past 10

ROBED

FOR JUDGMENT

APPLICATION TO COMMIT

ATC/11/0841 McCann & anr v Bennett

TONY BENNETT Statement re: COURT DRAFT JUDGMENT, 21 February 2013
TONY BENNETT Statement re: COURT DRAFT JUDGMENT Jill Havern Forum

Posted by Get 'em Gonçalo
Thu 21 Feb at 12:00 pm

Message from forum owner: Tony asked me to post this on the forum today:

 
Dear Jill, Admin team and forum members,

Last Wednesday (13 February) Mr Justice Tugendhat sent out his draft judgment to both parties.

There will be a few very minor changes to it when it is formally 'handed down' (i.e. published) on Thursday. Until then, it is confidential.

The judgment finds me guilty of contempt of court for breaching part of the Undertakings I gave to the Court on 25 November 2009.

Mr Justice Tugendhat has made it perfectly clear that to breach a Court Undertaking is invariably a very serious matter.

In his judgment, as you will see when it is released, he is very critical of me in a number of respects.

He says that in his judgment I was 'deliberately flouting' the Undertakings.

In my oral evidence, I made an apology to the Court. Mr Justice Tugendhat found that to be 'insincere'.

There is also the following crucial statement within his judgment, where he deal with my circulation of the MMRG's [Madeleine McCann Research Group] '50 FACTS' leaflet.

He states, quote: "A list of factual statements can carry an inferential meaning of each fact, and that is very clearly the case here".

In other words, even repeating cast-iron facts about the case is regarded by the Court as breaching the terms of the Undertakings I signed over 3 years ago.

For those reasons, and also for personal reasons, it is now quite clear that I cannot really say another thing about the case without placing myself at risk of an even graver penalty than the one that is likely to be handed down on Thursday.

I am placing this statement in Admin on Tuesday night. Tomorrow (Wednesday) I have an appointment with the Manager at the Parndon Wood Cemetery and Crematorium in Harlow, where I shall - whilst I have the money to spend - purchase a 2'6" x 6'6" Council lawn grave plot for £950. So I shall be busy tomorrow. At least they still use Imperial measurements for these things.

I do not know how it will go on Thursday.

As this may be my last posting on the site, I would like to offer once again sincere and grateful thanks to every single one of you who has given me practical or other support one way or another over the past few years. Just reading the nice messages on here over the past few weeks has been a comfort and a source of strength. There are many, many individuals I should like to name - but most of all at this time, Jill, 'candyfloss', simply...thank you for all you have done.

I expect to be punished for my contempt on Thursday. It would be dangerous for me to say anything else about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, but I will sign off with my draft of what I will say to the judge at 10.30am on Thursday:

My Lord,

You have found that I have been guilty of contempt of the High Court on numerous occasions.

I will do my best to make my submission reasonably short.

On 25 November 2009 I gave a series of Undertakings. As I understand it, your Lordship has ruled that this was an entirely voluntary agreement on my part as per the Frank Warren v Random House case which the Claimants brought into the case for the first time on 10 October last year. It is the breaches of that agreement to Carter-Ruck's demands which led the Claimants to bring these proceedings.

The breaches of which you have found me guilty have a context, and I have a few points to make about that context, none of them new, as they are all within my Affidavits and Exhibits and in my testimony.

My Lord, it is for the Court to punish my contempt and to decide what form that punishment should take.

However, I wish first of all to refer to the words of Isabel Martorell in her first Affidavit and then to the words of Leading Counsel when she addressed you in her final speech on Wednesday 6 February.

My Lord, Isabel Martorell in her first Affidavit to this Court, sworn on 29 November 2011, paragraphs 81 and 82, stated:
"The Claimants are aware that if the Defendant is indeed found in contempt of Court, the remedies open to the Court include a sentence of imprisonment (which may be suspended, possibly subject to conditions being imposed) as well as being fined. The Claimants are also aware that it is open to the Court to grant an injunction against the Defendant, ordering him to abide by the terms of the Undertakings he gave.

"It is of course ultimately for the Court to decide first, whether any contempt has been committed and (if so) what the appropriate sanction is, having heard submissions from both parties. The Claimants' purpose in bringing these contempt proceedings is in the hope that the Court will be able to intervene to stop the Defendant's contemptuous conduct for once and for all.

"Accordingly the Claimants respectfully request the Court take this consideration into account, together with the obsessive and persistent nature of the Defendant's conduct against them to date, when deciding what sanction (if any) to apply".
On the second day of the hearing on 6 February, Leading Counsel - fully in line with Ms Martorell's first Affidavit - referred your Lordship to press reports surfacing that very morning in our mainstream press, which your Lordship had not seen, which stated that the Claimants were applying to this Court to send me to prison.

To the extent that I have an accurate note, she told your Lordship:
"My clients do not wish Mr Bennett to go to prison".

"My clients do not wish Mr Bennett to be punished in any way".

"They just want Mr Bennett to stop".
My Lord, Leading Counsel has made a point of re-emphasising those remarks at paragraph 6 of her 'Claimants' Note', sent to me on Tuesday afternoon. She writes: "For the avoidance of any misunderstanding as to the stance of the Claimants, they consider that the matter is now entirely for the Court. As was made clear at the last hearing, their application was motivated not by a desire to see punishment meted out to the Defendant, let alone to see him imprisoned, but to put a stop to the repeated conduct which the Undertakings were intended to prevent".

It is the case, however, that the Claimants have incurred huge costs in this matter, and that any significant costs award against me would probably result in my having to declare myself bankrupt, unless some kind of monthly payment of the costs is accepted.

+++++

My Lord, in paragraph 131 of your draft judgment, you wrote: "For the purposes of considering the appropriate penalty, the court will take into account the extent of any publication, and the circumstances of any publication, which the court may have found to be in breach of an undertaking or injunction".

I will first address you briefly on those matters, dealing with each of the 26 alleged breaches which faced me at the start of the trial.

So far as item 1 is concerned, this was the claimed 'sale' of one copy of '60 Reasons' to Mr Michael Gunnill. He entrapped me into selling him one book simply because, he says, he wanted to make money from selling a story to the Sunday Express. When inventing an alias, and pretending he needed the booklet because it would become 'an important historical document', he also admitted that he had already read '60 Reasons' as it was available elsewhere on the internet. Thus he learnt nothing new by obtaining my booklet.

There is one other thing to be said about this. It will not have escaped your Lordship's notice that Mr Gunnill, in his evidence, admitted to the commission of a criminal offence, namely fraud, by obtaining property by deception, under what is now Section 2, subsections (1), (2) and (3) of the Fraud Act 2006 (which was Section 15 of the Theft Act). Under those parts of the Theft Act 1968 still in force, namely Sections 22 and 24, obtaining my booklet amounts in law to theft - and anyone guilty of handling the book may be guilty of handling stolen property.

Item 2 is the booklet: 'The Madeleine McCann Case Files Volume 1'. It has been on sale on the Madeleine Foundation website for 3 years, where I am told it has sold around 300 copies. It consists entirely, as your Lordship is aware, of items made public long ago in 2008 by the Portuguese Police. The Claimants have taken no action to date to restrain its sale.

Item 3 was an e-mail sent to a limited number of members of The Madeleine Foundation and to a few others thought to be supporters, one of whom notified Carter-Ruck of the e-mail.

Items 4 to 9 were all items posted on The Madeleine Foundation website. This site has a few hundred visitors each month, and is mostly visited by those who already take a sceptical view of the Claimants' claim that Madeleine was abducted.

My Lord, item 4 was the posting-up of letters by myself and two others to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on 4 July 2010. The immediate circumstance was an article the same day in the Sunday Express. You have found this to breach my undertaking. My purpose in posting up these letters, as I hope is clear, was simply to try to obtain an assurance from the Home Secretary that any review or re-investigation by the British Police into this case would pursue all lines of enquiry, and not just some of them.

My Lord, in submission, similar considerations apply to the publication by me of the letter of 18 May 2011 to David Cameron. He had, days earlier, ordered a review by Scotland Yard of the investigations into Madeleine's disappearance. The former Chief Executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, admitted on oath to the Leveson Inquiry that she had, by various means, persuaded our Prime Minister to order this review. The publication of this letter breached the undertaking. But the purpose of the letter was clear and I suggest genuine: we were seeking a full judicial public enquiry into all aspects of Madeleine's disappearance.

Item 9, the publication of a letter to the head of the Scotland Yard Review Team, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, was in similar vein. It was designed once again to attempt to ensure that this review followed all potential lines of enquiry about what happened to Madeleine.

My Lord, dealing with item 8, this was my letter of 8 June 2011 which was the event that persuaded the Claimants they must bring committal proceedings against me. The circumstance was that I had become aware of letters written about me to others, on the Claimants' instructions, on 2 and 3 June.

My Lord, the next 14 items, from No. 10 through to No. 23, are all postings made on a small internet forum, the Jill Havern forum, known as 'CMOMM' [Complete Mystery of Madeleine McCann]. It is one of 350 million or so internet sites worldwide. The following points apply to all 14 of these postings:

1. The forum was set up in November 2009. Its membership was tiny to begin with. It has only grown significantly in the past year or so. It now stands at over 2,200. During 2010 and 2011, when these publications were made, the average viewing figures at any one time was between 20 and 50.

2. As your Lordship heard during the trial, and was not contradicted by Ms Martorell, the overwhelming majority of members of CMOMM are those who do not believe that Madeleine was abducted.

3. As your Lordship heard, all the 14 postings in question were posted on continuous threads. The postings soon disappear from immediate view, sometimes within minutes, sometimes within an hour or two. New threads appear all the time.

4. Some postings can be read by the general public visiting the site. As your Lordship heard, and was conceded, other threads are only visible to those who have taken the decision to register; these are referred to as 'members only' threads. Most of these postings of mine were not normally visible to members of the general public at all. The only reason that your Lordship was able to see them during this trial was because two researchers from Carter-Ruck spent dozens, maybe hundreds of hours, combing for them. During the trial, I put to Ms Martorell a list of dates when the owner of the Jill Havern forum had recorded the IP address 'Peter Carter-Ruck' visiting the forum. It was almost daily for three months, September to November 2011. Sometimes several hours a day were spent, according to Ms Martorell, by two members of staff. I think she said they were 'trainees'.

5. Ms Martorell did not dispute that nearly all the other postings on the site were equally sceptical of the McCanns' abduction claim. But Carter-Ruck were only searching for my postings.

The 14 items numbered 10 through 23 were dated as follows.

The first three were in 2010. The fourth was in January 2011. The next seven were dated from 16 April 2011 to 3 August 2011. The circumstance of these seven, as Ms Martorell stated accurately in her First Affidavit, was the publication of Dr Kate McCann's book, 'madeleine', and various publicity events surrounding that publication. She said that my publications at that time "appeared to be prompted by the fact that the First Claimant was due imminently to publish a book recording her own account of her daughter’s disappearance". That was true. It provides the context my comments at this time. Many others also reacted to the book's publication by publishing similar comments to mine, often much less temperate.

6. The remaining three were between 17 August and 1 November 2011.

My Lord, you have found, amongst the 13 alleged breaches dealt with during the trial, that these were all breaches of some of my Undertakings, for which I certainly now wish again to apologise to the Court.

However, the extent to which people actually read those postings was, in submission, minimal, and especially so having regard to the mammoth publicity the Claimants have enjoyed for their account of events. Only this Sunday, for example, on BBC TV's Andrew Marr show, the Claimants were introduced as 'being well-known nationally and internationally'.

My Lord, item 24 was a tweet on Twitter, seen fleetingly by probably no more than a few dozen people at most.

My Lord, item 25 (as well as item 14) refers to the distribution of a factual leaflet, known as '50 Facts'. I distributed a few dozen of those leaflets in Cheshire and Rochdale. On this matter, your Lordship has ruled that: "A list of factual statements can carry an inferential meaning of each fact, and that is very clearly the case here". My Lord, I had understood that I was at no risk if I repeated factual material relating to Madeleine's reported disappearance. Your Lordship has very clearly now ruled that this is not the case. My Lord, having seen your ruling on this point, it is very clear to me now that even reciting a fact about the case risks breaching my Undertakings.

Therefore, so long as the Undertakings remain in force, I would like to inform the Court that I shall henceforth not publish anything about Madeleine's disappearance, not even facts. I never intended any disrespect to the Court, hoping and believing that if action were taken against me, the Court would at the same time consider my counter-claim, as I set out in correspondence with Carter-Ruck back in 2011, telling them that if any proceedings were brought, I would apply to revoke some of the Undertakings. I am very sorry to have broken my promise and expect to be punished for it.

There is one further statement I wish to make to the Court at this point. I wish to acknowledge publicly that my actions have caused distress to the Claimants. I wish also to apologise directly to them for that distress. Accordingly, in correspondence with the Claimants' Solicitors since 6 February, I have put forward constructive proposals for resolving outstanding matters as amicably as possible under all the circumstances.

My Lord, finally item No. 26 was the YouTube video of myself reading out the 48 questions by the Portuguese Police which Dr Kate McCann had declined to answer. The extent of publication was this. It was placed on YouTube on 15 July 2010. It was removed by Google for reasons unknown the following day. That was the full extent of publication. As your Lordship heard, the same material is available to view on the BBC and Daily Mail websites, and many places elsewhere. Your Lordship may also consider that the reading-out of the 48 questions was preceded by a fair introduction by me of Dr Kate McCann's stated reasons for declining to answer those questions.

The publications now found to be a breach of Undertaking have not been reported in the press and media, so far as I am aware, save for the briefest references, and which references were adverse to me, in the Daily Mail in 2011 and the Sunday Telegraph in 2012.

My Lord, at p. 1421 in the Civil Procedure Rules is a commentary on CPR Rule 2.11. There is a headnote: 'The threshold of seriousness', where reference is made to publications which "may be defamatory to [the Claimant] because [they substantially affect] in an adverse manner the attitude of other people towards him, or has a tendency to do so". In this case I appreciate that we are dealing with a breach of an Undertaking, and not defamation, but I would submit that similar principles should apply. What is the effect of my limited-circulation publications, as against, first, the huge publicity the Claimants have enjoyed to put over their account, and secondly, in relation the weight of material by others which also expresses doubt about the abduction claim?

This I partly covered in my 17-page Exhibit at pages A116 to A133, where I listed all the following publications which openly questioned whether Madeleine had been abducted or not: reports by Portuguese and other police, books and articles - most written by experts in their fields, such as criminologists and psychologists - websites, blogs and internet forums, YouTube videos, Facebook groups and the many individuals on Twitter who daily post messages in opposition to the abduction claim.

Many of those publications have had much, much wider circulation than mine, and have been published by those with far greater authority and status than I have.

I wish to finish by making a few additional comments on the context in which these breaches of undertaking occurred.

First, I pointed out during the trial that, in practical terms, I was the only person in the world who was not able to give an opinion on what happened to Madeleine. Your Lordship’s response was to tell me that I was the only one to have given the High Court any Undertakings. Nevertheless, in relation to penalty, this is in submission a highly unusual situation where everyone else in the world is effectively free to give their opinion, and many do so every day, but one individual is not allowed to express those very same opinions.

Second, there is the situation regarding the source material for my views on the case, namely the book: 'The Truth of the Lie,' by the original investigation co-ordinator, Dr Goncalo Amaral. In short, despite the Claimants libel action against him and his book, which has now run for 3 years and 8 months, his book not only continues to be sold in Portugal but has been translated into 9 European languages and is available inover 30 countries worldwide. The Claimants have tried to stop the book, but the two highest courts in Portugal have upheld his right to continue to sell and distribute his book, and costs were awarded against them. It is conceded by the Claimants that they did not press their case to the full libel trial which was due to have begun on 24 January this year. They said they were seeking a settlement. They have been unable over a period 3 years and 8 months to establish that he has libelled them.

My Lord, on Monday of this week it was widely reported in Portugal that Dr Amaral had rejected offers of settlement put forward by the Claimants. The Court had set a 30-day period for any settlement to be agreed. The matter will therefore now go to a full libel trial after all. It still remains to be seen whether Claimants can succeed in proving to the Court that Dr Amaral libelled them (see Appendix).

Third, the Claimants have not established in this Court or elsewhere that Madeleine was abducted. They did not supply any evidence to this Court that Madeleine had been abducted. Their solicitor, Ms Martorell, swore on oath that Madeleine had been abducted, but admitted to this Court that this was merely hearsay evidence from her client.

Fourth, and similarly, whilst the Claimants received a substantial damages settlement from several British media in respect of articles they had published in 2007 and early 2008, those settlements were out-of-court settlements and the truth of the matter was never tested in a court of law. Neither have the Claimants established in these proceedings which began in November 2009 that I have libelled them. In signing the Undertakings that I did, I made no concession that I had libelled them.

Fifth, in relation to my state of mind during these breaches of my undertakings, it is I submit clear from the correspondence between myself and Carter-Ruck over a period of two years or more that I did consider, based on legal advice received - however mistaken I was - that I may have a valid defence to any possible contempt of court or libel action.

That view might have been right if the Claimants had elected to lift the stay on proceedings and revived their Libel Claim. However, they elected instead to pursue the narrower, more specific, contempt of Court route.

Sixth, there is the degree of my compliance with the undertakings.

Apart from the 'sale' of one copy of '60 Reasons' to Mr Gunnill, the evidence was that I complied strictly with all the Undertakings in Schedules A and B requiring me not to sell or distribute certain named books and leaflets, to close a website, and to remove certain postings from various websites. You saw and heard evidence that I wrote to booksellers telling them that my book could no longer be sold. You saw and heard evidence that as soon as I became aware of any places on the internet where '60 Reasons' was available to read, I immediately wrote to the website owner asking for it to be removed. The breaches which have been proved are all under Schedule C, which deals with my opinions on the evidence.

Your Lordship has seen the extent to which I complied with requests made in Carter-Ruck's three letters of 5 February, 15 July and 3 August 2010.

Your Lordship will also have seen the comments by Ms Martorell at paragraphs 49 and 50 of her First Affidavit where she stated: "At that time [meaning October 2010], the Claimants once again hoped that they may not need to escalate matters against the Defendant by bringing contempt of court proceedings, a step which they (understandably) did not wish to take unless it appeared absolutely necessary. For a time, the Claimants' decision appeared to be justified, as it seemed that the Defendant was not continuing to breach the undertakings which he had given”.

Seventh, there are the words of the Claimants and their spokesman. In January 2011, the Claimants' chief public relations spokesman spoke of Madeleine's abduction as a hypothesis or an assumption. Later, on oath before the Leveson Inquiry, Dr Gerald McCann said he was a strong believer in the freedom of speech, said he had no objection to people propounding theories, and added that his only objection was to people getting their facts wrong. I accept that the Court has ruled that these statements do not help me at all in relation to the seriousness of breaching an Undertaking. But they provide context and background for those breaches.

Eighth, the Claimants' stated motivation for bringing these proceedings was set out by Ms Martorell as follows: "Our clients' overriding purpose in bringing complaints against you has always been to prevent your dissemination of false and defamatory allegations about them which risk causing damage to the ongoing search for their daughter, in addition to unjustifiable damage to their reputation". My Lord, having regard to the full extent of the widespread publicly-expressed disagreement with the Claimants' account of events, and the limited circulation of my publications, I would suggest with respect that my publications have not to any substantial degree either damaged the ongoing search, nor damaged the Claimants' reputation. A number of 'sightings' of Madeleine have been reported recently, in India, Brazil, New Zealand and possibly Ukraine, suggesting that nothing I have said has in any way hindered any individual from searching.

Ninth and finally I wish to mention the issue of proportionality.

There was evidence laid before the Court that the Claimants were powerless to restrain the extent of public disagreement about their account of Madeleine's disappearance. On top of that, they have failed to date to control the source book on which I rely, Dr Amaral's 'The Truth About A Lie'.

It was admitted by Dr Kate McCann in her book that the Claimants were effectively powerless to control the dissent on the internet, which she admitted was 'widespread'.

My Lord, I had hoped that the argument that I was the only one being restrained would assist me. Clearly it does not. However, I hope you will be able to take into account in deciding penalty both the circumstances under which the Undertakings were given, and the fact that I alone face punishment for my opinions on Madeleine's disappearance. I recognise that my allegations against the Claimant are serious. Breaching a Court Undertaking is serious. But in terms of proportionality, I appeal to you to take in to consideration the admitted inability of the Claimants to control the dissent anyone else bar myself.

As to my motive, My Lord, you are the judge of that, but I trust that there is a great deal of evidence before you that, however misguided some of my actions have been, the motive has always been to search for the truth, to pursue the route of a full public enquiry into all aspects of this mystery, and to ensure that the current Scotland Yard review does what all police cold case reviews should do, namely consider all options, based on a wholehearted search for the truth without fear or favour.

My Lord, as to the Court's powers on costs, these are I believe in the Civil Procedure Rules, paragraph 44. In paragraph 44.3, subsection (4), where it states that when exercising its discretion on costs, the Court will consider the circumstances including the conduct of the parties. My Lord, in the light of Leading Counsel stating before your Lordship that the Claimants did not wish the Court to punish me in any way, I do not know how far they intend to press any claim for costs against me.

I have here a statement of means.

I also have the two testimonials as to character handed to me prior to the trial. They were at pages A752 to A754 of my Bundle. My only sibling, my brother also says he wrote you a letter last week.

There is one final matter I wish to raise, my Lord, and that is the question not of what punishment I deserve, but of when any sentence should be handed down. There is before the Court the Claimants' application to commit me to prison. However, there is also my cross-application to be relieved from three of the sixteen Undertakings I gave. The two matters have been separated, but are clearly linked.

Your Lordship ruled earlier that my application to vary three Undertakings 'will be treated as an application to lift the stay on the libel proceedings'. As I understand it, the Claimants strongly oppose the lifting of the stay. There will be a hearing about this, I am not sure when.

It is possible that that hearing may result in the stay being lifted; if not, I will remain bound by these three Undertakings until I die, unless there is an unexpected and exceptional new development.

If the stay is lifted, I think your Lordship has indicated that there will be a libel trial in some form or other. In any such proceedings, my case as to whether I have ever libeled the Claimants will be heard. It may be that the libel Court will find that I have valid statutory defences to an action for defamation for all the comments which you have held to breach my Undertakings. I would then be being punished, or would have been punished, for making statements which were never libellous in the first place.

It is also possible that my allegations are true.

I therefore invite your Lordship to consider postponing sentence until at least after the application to lift the stay has been determined - and, if lifted, until after the libel trial, whatever form that may take.

Madeleine McCann: Man Sentenced Over Claims, 21 February 2013
Madeleine McCann: Man Sentenced Over Claims Sky News

A man is given a suspended prison sentence for contempt of court for publishing claims about the parents of Madeleine McCann.

2:19pm UK, Thursday 21 February 2013

Madeleine went missing on a holiday to Portugal in May 2007

A retired solicitor who published claims that Madeleine McCann's parents caused her death has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said 65-year-old Tony Bennett deliberately flouted legal undertakings, given in November 2009, not to repeat allegations about the couple.

Bennett's conduct, the judge said, was so serious that nothing less than a custodial sentence of three months, suspended for one year, would reflect the harm he had done.

Finding Bennett guilty of contempt of court, the judge added: "I am sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done."

The judge, at London's High Court, said he was satisfied that Bennett, of Harlow, Essex, was in breach of the undertakings in each of the 13 representative instances before the court - out of 153 publications complained of.

He was not asked to make findings in relation to the other alleged breaches.

He commented: "It is essential for the rule of law that injunctions and court orders be obeyed. It can't be an answer that the person who is giving an undertaking or subject to an injunction can ignore it with impunity while it is in force."

Bennett, who was ordered to pay the costs of the litigation, apologised to the court.

Retired Harlow solicitor sentenced over McCann claims, 21 February 2013
Retired Harlow solicitor sentenced over McCann claims Harlow Star

Tony Bennett

Written by COURT REPORTER
14:26 Thursday 21 February 2013

A RETIRED solicitor from Harlow who published claims that the parents of missing toddler Madeleine McCann had covered up their daughter's death has received a suspended jail sentence.

Tony Bennett, formerly of Chippingfield, Old Harlow, but now living in Ongar, was found guilty of contempt of court after deliberately flouting legal undertakings imposed in November 2009 which barred him from repeating allegations about the couple.

At London's High Court earlier today (Thursday), Mr Justice Tugendhat said the 65-year-old's conduct was so serious that nothing less than a custodial sentence of three months suspended for one year would reflect the harm he had done.

The judge added: "I am sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done."

The judge said he was satisfied that Bennett, of Harlow, was in breach of the undertakings in each of the 13 representative instances before the court - out of 153 publications complained of.

He was not asked to make findings in relation to the other alleged breaches.

He commented: "It is essential for the rule of law that injunctions and court orders be obeyed. It can't be an answer that the person who is giving an undertaking or subject to an injunction can ignore it with impunity while it is in force."

Bennett, who was ordered to pay the costs of the litigation, apologised to the court.

He added: "I recognise the distress I have caused on a number of occasions to the claimants. I would like to apologise to them for that distress."

The judge said that Gerry and Kate McCann, who were not in court, had suffered injury to their reputations and feelings and resorted to legal action not to punish Mr Bennett - but to put a stop to his repeated conduct.

Madeleine McCann contempt case: Tony Bennett guilty, 21 February 2013
Madeleine McCann contempt case: Tony Bennett guilty BBC News

Tony Bennett has pledged never to speak about the McCanns in public again

 

21 February 2013 Last updated at 15:26

A man who claims he is campaigning to find out what happened to Madeleine McCann has been convicted of contempt of court at the High Court in London.

Tony Bennett was found to have breached an earlier court undertaking not to publish allegations linking Madeleine's parents with her disappearance.

Bennett, who is behind the Madeleine Foundation, was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for a year.

He was also ordered to pay Kate and Gerry McCann's court costs.

Bennett, of Harlow in Essex, was found to have breached on at least 13 occasions the undertaking not to publish allegations linking the couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, with their daughter's disappearance.

'Last resort'

The breaches included letters he wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May and Prime Minister David Cameron, which Bennett also posted on the internet.

The judge said the retired solicitor had deliberately flouted the order and that his conduct was so serious that nothing less than a custodial sentence would suffice.

After the hearing, Bennett said: "I'm sorry for the distress I've caused to them - I'm hoping the way forward will result in both of us drawing a line under the situation."

Bennett apologised to Kate and Gerry McCann for the distress he had caused

Adrienne Page QC, representing the McCanns, had previously said there was no complaint about Bennett writing the letters.

She said: "The complaint is the publication to the world at large."

Clarence Mitchell, the McCann family spokesman, said: "Kate and Gerry McCann brought these committal proceedings very much as a last resort.

"Mr Bennett has pursued an incessant campaign against them, repeatedly making false accusations against them.

"Concerned for the effect that Mr Bennett's campaign may have on the ongoing search for their daughter and the likelihood of new leads coming forward, the McCanns concluded they had little choice but to seek the court's intervention.

"The McCanns continue to focus their efforts on the ongoing search for their daughter Madeleine."

Madeleine disappeared when she was three years old in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

In July 2008 the Portuguese attorney general said there was no evidence linking her parents to any crime.

Man sentenced over McCanns claims, 21 February 2013
Man sentenced over McCanns claims Irish Independent

Kate and Gerry McCann resorted to legal action 'very much as a last resort'
Kate and Gerry McCann resorted to legal action 'very much as a last resort'

21 February 2013

A retired solicitor who published claims that Madeleine McCann's parents caused her death has received a suspended jail sentence.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said 65-year-old Tony Bennett deliberately flouted legal undertakings, given in November 2009, not to repeat allegations about the couple.

He said his conduct was so serious that nothing less than a custodial sentence of three months suspended for one year would reflect the harm he had done.

Finding Bennett guilty of contempt of court, the judge added: "I am sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done."

The judge, at London's High Court, said he was satisfied that Bennett, of Harlow, Essex, was in breach of the undertakings in each of the 13 representative instances before the court - out of 153 publications complained of. He was not asked to make findings in relation to the other alleged breaches.

He commented: "It is essential for the rule of law that injunctions and court orders be obeyed. It can't be an answer that the person who is giving an undertaking or subject to an injunction can ignore it with impunity while it is in force."

Bennett, who was ordered to pay the costs of the litigation, apologised to the court. He added: "I recognise the distress I have caused on a number of occasions to the claimants. I would like to apologise to them for that distress."

The judge said that Gerry and Kate McCann, who have not attended court, had suffered injury to their reputations and feelings and resorted to legal action not to punish Mr Bennett - but to put a stop to his repeated conduct. He agreed with lawyers for the McCanns that Bennett had played "cat and mouse" with them by complying with the undertakings some of the time. "He was testing them with false or disingenuous assurances and demands for explanations to which, as a member of the public with no responsibility for law enforcement, he was not entitled."

Later, Clarence Mitchell, the McCann family spokesman, said: "Kate and Gerry McCann brought these committal proceedings very much as a last resort. Mr Bennett has pursued an incessant campaign against them, repeatedly making false accusations against them, and ignoring the fact that the Portuguese authorities confirmed there was simply no evidence to implicate them in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine.

"In 2009 Mr Bennett gave solemn undertakings to the High Court not to continue this campaign, but he has gone on to breach these undertakings on well over 100 occasions. Concerned for the effect that Mr Bennett's campaign may have on the ongoing search for their daughter and the likelihood of new leads coming forward, the McCanns concluded they had little choice but to seek the court's intervention. Contrary to press reports, Kate and Gerry McCann did not bring the action to punish Mr Bennett or to send him to prison, but simply to get him to stop." He added: "Kate and Gerry McCann are pleased with the court's decision today and hope that it finally marks an end to Mr Bennett's campaign against them. The McCanns continue to focus their efforts on the ongoing search for their daughter Madeleine."

------------------

Note: This Press Association press release also appears in
The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Liverpool Echo and The Huffington Post

Short interview with Tony Bennett, 21 February 2013
Short interview with Tony Bennett BBC East Midlands Today (iPlayer)

 
Presenters Dominic Heale and Anne Davies

 

21 February 2013

Transcript

By Nigel Moore

Dominic Heale: A man who repeatedly published allegations linking Madeleine McCann's parents, from Rothley in Leicestershire, with her disappearance has been given a three month prison sentence, suspended for a year. Tony Bennett from Essex was found to be in contempt of court for breaching an Undertaking not to publish the claims.

Anne Davies: Mr Bennett faces bankruptcy after being told to pay costs running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Our chief news reporter, Quentin Rayner, was at the High Court in London.

 
Tony Bennett arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice, 21 February 2013

 

Quentin Rayner: (voice over) Sixty-five year old Tony Bennett from Essex arrived at the High Court knowing he faced potential financial ruin. In 2008, he founded The Madeleine Foundation, pledged, it claims, to finding out what really happened to Madeleine McCann. In November 2009, he gave an Undertaking to the court that he would no longer publish allegations objected to by Kate and Gerry McCann. But today he was found in contempt of court for at least thirteen breaches. These included the sale of a book and publishing letters to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary on the internet.

(to camera) The Judge told Bennett he'd deliberately flouted the Undertaking not to publish. He told him his conduct was so serious only custody would do. He was given a three month sentence, suspended for a year, but the Judge accepted that Bennett's apology was now sincere.

 
Tony Bennett speaks to Quentin Rayner

 

Tony Bennett: I'm sorry for the distress I've caused to them, errm... I realise that it's, errm... caused them stress, errm... and I hope that the way forward I've suggested to, errm... their solicitors will result in, errm... both of us drawing a line under the, errm... situation.

Quentin Rayner: (voice over) Bennett faces costs of more than £300,000 and potential bankruptcy.

(to Tony Bennett) I have to ask: Do you regret it? Was it worth it?

Tony Bennett: Probably not. I... I mean, all that I've said in court today is great. I do not wish to do anything further. I've said... I've given my opinion, I've given my reasons, I've given some facts, that's it. I... I can do no more than that.

When he said that I was being sentenced to three months in jail, I thought that he meant it and I had prepared myself mentally for that. Errm... Obviously I'm relieved that, errm... he's not, errm... put me in jail straight away.

Quentin Rayner: (voice over) Tony Bennett says the case may well have also cost him his marriage. He's pledged never to speak publicly again about the McCanns.

Quentin Rayner, BBC East Midlands Today, at the High Court in London.

 
Tony Bennett leaves the Royal Courts of Justice, 21 February 2013

 

Anne Davies: Well, a statement from Clarence Mitchell, the McCann family spokesman, says:

 
Statement from Clarence Mitchell

"Mr Bennett has pursued an incessant campaign against them, repeatedly making false accusations against them, and ignoring the fact that the Portuguese authorities confirmed there was simply no evidence to implicate them in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine.

"Kate and Gerry McCann did not bring the action to punish Mr Bennett or to send him to prison, but simply to get him to stop."

Ex-solicitor guilty over Maddy slur, 22 February 2013
Ex-solicitor guilty over Maddy slur Daily Mirror (paper edition)

By Tracey Kandohla
Friday 22.02.3013

A RETIRED solicitor who made multiple false claims that Madeleine McCann's parents caused her death was handed a suspended jail sentence yesterday.

Tony Bennett, 65, flouted legal undertakings he agreed in 2009 not to repeat the allegations about the couple.

His Madeleine Foundation handed out 1,500 leaflets titled "10 key reasons which suggest she wasn't abducted" in the family's village.

Mr Justice Tugendhat agreed with lawyers that he played "cat and mouse" with Kate and Gery McCann by complying with the court order only some of the time.

He was found guilty of contempt by the High Court and given three months in jail suspended for one year.

Bennett, of Harlow, Essex, apologised to the McCanns and will pay their legal costs.

A family spokesman said: "Kate and Gerry did not bring action to punish Mr Bennett or to send him to prison, but simply to get him to stop."

Retired solicitor sentenced for McCann contempt, 22 February 2013
Retired solicitor sentenced for McCann contempt The Press Gazette

PA Media Lawyer
22 February 2013

Kate and Gerry McCann

A retired solicitor who published claims that Madeleine McCann's parents caused her death received a suspended jail sentence today.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said 65-year-old Tony Bennett, as former social worker, deliberately flouted legal undertakings, given in November 2009, not to repeat allegations about the couple.

He said his conduct was so serious that nothing less than a custodial sentence of three months suspended for one year would reflect the harm he had done.

Finding Bennett guilty of contempt of court, the judge added: "I am sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done.

"I am sure that he intended his words to bear the other meanings which I have held they do bear. The words are too clear, and the repetitions too numerous, for any other interpretation to be put upon what he did."

The judge said he did "not find credible" that, after giving the undertakings, Bennett believed that the proceedings against him would be in the form of a libel action, or that he would be able to attempt to prove the truth of his allegations.

"I find that he was deliberately flouting the Undertakings, and that his apology is insincere," said Mr Justice Tugendhat, who was sitting in the High Court.

He was satisfied that Bennett, of Harlow, Essex, was in breach of the undertakings in each of the 13 representative instances before the court - out of 153 publications complained of. He was not asked to make findings in relation to the other alleged breaches.

The judge added: "It is essential for the rule of law that injunctions and court orders be obeyed. It can't be an answer that the person who is giving an undertaking or subject to an injunction can ignore it with impunity while it is in force."

Bennett, who was ordered to pay the costs of the litigation, apologised to the court.

He added: "I recognise the distress I have caused on a number of occasions to the claimants. I would like to apologise to them for that distress."

The judge said that Gerry and Kate McCann, who had not attended court, had suffered injury to their reputations and feelings and resorted to legal action not to punish Mr Bennett, but to put a stop to his repeated conduct.

He agreed with lawyers for the McCanns that Bennett had played "cat and mouse" with them by complying with the undertakings he had given some of the time.

"He was testing them with false or disingenuous assurances and demands for explanations to which, as a member of the public with no responsibility for law enforcement, he was not entitled," Mr Justice Tugendhat said.

Carter-Ruck and 5RB secure verdict against McCann contempt solicitor, 22 February 2013
Carter-Ruck and 5RB secure verdict against McCann contempt solicitor The Lawyer

22 February 2013 | By Lucy Burton

The High Court has given retired solicitor Tony Bennett a suspended jail sentence after he published claims that missing child Madeline McCann's parents caused their daughter's disapperance.

Mr Justice Tugendhat

Finding the former lawyer guilty of contempt of court, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that Bennett had played "cat and mouse" with the couple by only complying "some of the time" with the undertakings of a previous court order, which said he would not repeat allegations about the couple.

According to the judgment Bennett was testing the parents with "false or disingenuous assurances and demands for explanations to which, as a member of the public with no responsibility for law enforcement, he was not entitled".

"I'm sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done," ruled Mr Justice Tugendhat. "The words are too clear, and the repetitions too numerous, for any other interpretation to be put upon what he did."

The claimants, Kate and Gerry McCann, instructed Carter-Ruck partner Adam Tudor and 5RB's Adrienne Page QC and Jacob Dean for the case, while Bennett appeared in person.

An undated note on Bennett's campaigning website, The Madeline Foundation, alleges that the 65-year-old was misled about his entitlement to Legal Aid. "The McCanns have hired the country's most expensive libel lawyers, Carter-Ruck, to try to silence Tony, and by April had already clocked up well over £120,000 in costs," the website claims.

Little information has been made public about Bennett's legal career, although internet research suggests he had set up his own firm, Bennetts, after qualifiying as a solicitor in the 1990s.

Doubt the McCanns? Go to Jail, 23 February 2013
 
Doubt the McCanns? Go to Jail news.gather.com

Chelsea Hoffman
 
By Chelsea Hoffman
February 23, 2013 02:20 AM EST

 

Do you doubt the McCanns (both Kate and Gerry) and their insistence that their daughter Maddie was kidnapped? Well, if you live in the UK you might want to be careful about how you express that, apparently. Tony Bennett was recently found guilty of contempt after he published letters that he wrote accusing Kate and Gerry McCann of having something to do with Madaleine's disappearance (or death).

Madeleine McCann

Naturally, the McCanns aggressively pursued his and he has been given a suspended jail sentence of three months. Bennett has written such works as What Really Happened to Madeleine McCann? 10 Key Reasons which Suggest that She Was Not Abducted, a work that has been called "libelous" in the UK—even if extremely valid points were brought to attention.

Finding Bennett guilty is a laughable display of just how little the UK government values freedom of speech, and it's a blatant show of just how much they disrespect the sharing of valid arguments against the blindly accepted belief that Madeleine McCann was kidnapped while her parents dined with friends—several yards away from the unattended child and her much-younger siblings.

Luckily there are countries, such as the United States, where people are not punished for openly expressing and sharing ideas—just as Tony Bennett has done. Nobody can extinguish the First Amendment that is every American's right—and it's this American's right to boldly say that Tony Bennett is not only credible in his opinions, but he is now a martyr for the cause of spreading awareness of this case and the monster it has become.

--------------------

~*~ Crime analyst and profiler Chelsea Hoffman is the author of "The Sin City Strangler" & many other works. Contact her privately via the "Case to Case" blog or @TheRealChelseaH on Twitter.~*~

Tweets from Tony Bennett re: application to vary undertakings, 26 February 2013
Tweets from Tony Bennett re: application to vary undertakings Twitter

 
Tony Bennett tweets, 26 February 2013

Anthony Bennett ‏@zampos
Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that one day be set aside to hear my application to vary 3 undertakings in #McCann v Bennett: will be after 2 May

15:52 a.m. - Feb 26, 2013

-----------------

Anthony Bennett ‏@zampos
Next stage in #McCann v Bennett: Court will consider lifting stay of the libel claim, so I can explain why 3 undertakings should be revoked

15:54 a.m. - Feb 26, 2013

Tugendhat's Committal Order and Directions for the Trial of Tony Bennett's Application, 27 February 2013
Tugendhat's Committal Order and Directions for the Trial of Tony Bennett's Application Jill Havern Forum

Tony Bennett: Order For Committal, page 1

Tony Bennett: Order For Committal, page 2

Tony Bennett: Schedule, page 3

Tony Bennett: Schedule, page 4

Tony Bennett: Order For Directions, page 5

Tugendhat's Committal Order and Directions for the Trial of Tony Bennett's Application, 27 February 2013
Tugendhat's Committal Order and Directions for the Trial of Tony Bennett's Application, 27 February 2013 Jill Havern Forum

By Tony Bennett
Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:35 am

The documents above were a DRAFT order, sent to me on Friday.

There have been three minor amendments to the final Committal Order.

I pointed out to Jacob Dean, Counsel for the McCanns, that in the case of items 3, 7 and 13, these were conversations to which I contributed, rather than original posts of mine starting a new thread.

He agreed - and sent me this reply:
"Dear Mr Bennett,

I am happy to agree your suggested changes to items 3, 7 and 13, as it appears on those occasions you were posting in a thread created by another..."
If a contemnor receives an actual prison sentence, rather than a suspended sentence, he is delivered directly from the Court into Pentonville Prison.

The Order for Directions sets out precisely what will happen next.

There will be a one day hearing, probably in May, when the Court will consider whether to lift the 'stay' (= suspension) on the Libel Claim brought to the Court by the McCanns on 25 November 2009. On that day, the McCanns' claim against me for damages not to exceed £50,000 was issued, but then immediately suspended by Master Leslie, when he was shown a letter sent by me to Carter-Ruck a few days earlier in which I consented to giving 16 undertakings as to future conduct.

The purpose of this next hearing is (as I understand it) is to see if I have a prima facie (= arguable) case for the three undertakings that I was found to have breached to be revoked.

This will mean setting out in open court, and in detail, the evidence which leads so many to doubt that Madeleine McCann was abducted. I'll also be making much more detailed references to the scale of doubt about the abduction claim and the practical impossibility of the McCanns being able to restrain this level of dissent.

This latter matter was essentially confirmed by Dr Kate McCann in her book: 'madeleine', on page 290, where she refers to "the widespread defamatory material circulating on the internet", adding that: "...it has proved almost impossible to get this stuff removed from some of them, particularly those hosted in the U.S.A...You could spend your whole life doing nothing but trying to shut down crank websites with little prospect of success".

The McCanns say that my application has no realistic prospect of success and they oppose it vigorously.

--------------------

Further brief comment related to the McCanns' original demands:

By Tony Bennett
Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:44 am


The McCanns wanted all copies of my book, '60 Reasons', and our leaflet, '10 Reasons', destroyed. They wanted our website closed. They wanted me to remove postings about them on four other websites/forums. They wanted me to promise not to repeat any allegations against them that they had anything to do with Madeleine's disappearance. They wanted to put all those commitments into a Court undertaking. They wanted me to pay their Court costs of £440.00 (subsequently reduced to £400.00). I agreed to all of this in a letter dated 13 November 2009. The subsequent actions on 25 November merely confirmed all the concessions I had made in that 13 November letter. Earlier, on 2 October, and as a result of a four-hour meeting with four lawyers in Liverpool, I had agreed in principle to accept the McCanns' demands.

----------------------

Further brief comment related to a possible costs settlement:

By Tony Bennett
Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:34 pm


The sequence of events is as follows.

On 18 February I put forward a genuine offer to withdraw from all further legal action in pursuit of my application to vary the undertakings, etc., in exchange basically for the McCanns reducing their costs bill drastically so as not to make me bankrupt.

Carter-Ruck replied the following day saying they were 'interested' in a possible settlement along the lines I suggested but would wait until after the hearing on 21 February.

At the hearing on 21 February C-R asked the judge for a delay of 21 days to see if the parties could reach a settlement. Mr Justice Tugendhat therefore ordered the case to be listed for hearing if no agreement could be reached by Thurdsay 14 March.

If there is to be a hearing of my application to lift the 'stay' on the libel proceedings, there has to be an exchange of evidence first - and the judge has ordered that to be done during March and April.

On 22 February I visited C-R's offices, provided them with a 'Statement of Means' (capital and income) and reiterated my willingness to reach an agreement along the lines suggested.

To date there has been no further response from C-R.

Accordingly, and until such time as there is a settlement, naturally I must continue to prepare for the hearing in May. I have to submit my evidence in writing first. Then C-R have three weeks to respond.

67 words which Carter-Ruck say should result in my being sent immediately to Pentonville Prison, 28 February 2013
67 words which Carter-Ruck say should result in my being sent immediately to Pentonville Prison Jill Havern Forum

By Tony Bennett
Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:13 pm


This morning I received an email from Carter-Ruck, marked, in bold capitals, 'URGENT'.

Essentially, it objected to 67 words in my post on this thread at 6.35am yesterday (just below the OP).

The letter concluded with these words:

"We have advised our clients that this publication constitutes a further breach of the undertakings and thus a basis on which the suspension of your three-month prison sentence should be revoked, as well as a breach of your assurance given to the judge by way of mitigation. We hereby put you on notice that if you publish anything further which in any way breaches the undertakings, our clients will have litle choice but to report the mater to the Court, and to invite the Court immediately to execute the warrant for your committal to Pentonville Prison".

I had thought that I had given an uncontroversial summary of what would happen next in the proceedings, explaining what the 'lifting the stay' application to be heard one day in May was all about.

Apparently not.

I really don't know now if I can say anything about that upcoming hearing, unless it is just to give you all the date, time, and Courtroom number.

In the meantime, Admin has agreed to delete the offending 67 words from my post. The rest of my post remains as it was.

Thank you, Admin.

You have saved me from Pentonville.

For the moment.

----------------------

Note:

By Nigel Moore
01 March 2013

It is clear from the paragraph quoted above that Carter-Ruck (presumably on the advice of their clients) have opted not to report this alleged breach of the undertakings to the Court.

They do, however, make it clear to Mr Bennett that 'if you publish anything further (my italics) which in any way breaches the undertakings, our clients will have little choice but to report the mater to the Court'.

For reference the offending words were as follows:

'The purpose of this next hearing is (as I understand it) is to see if I have a prima facie (= arguable) case for the three undertakings that I was found to have breached to be revoked.

This will mean setting out in open court, and in detail, the evidence which leads so many to doubt that Madeleine McCann was abducted. I'll also be making much more detailed references to the scale of doubt about the abduction claim and the practical impossibility of the McCanns being able to restrain this level of dissent.'

Carter -Ruck: Media Law - Recent Work, 2013
Media Law: Recent Work Carter-Ruck

 
Carter -Ruck: Media Law - Recent Work

Kate and Gerry McCann

Carter-Ruck brought a successful application for contempt of Court against an individual who had repeatedly published false and highly defamatory allegations about the couple, in breach of formal undertakings which he had given to the Court in 2009.  Recognising the seriousness and persistency of the individual's conduct, the Court imposed a three-month suspended prison sentence.  The individual has subsequently agreed to withdraw an appeal of the committal order, to abide by his undertakings in future and to pay costs to the Claimants.

• Kate and Gerry McCann were represented by Adam Tudor and Isabel Martorell.

FOI Act request about meetings between staff of Operation Grange and BBC Crimewatch, 30 May 2014
 
FOI Act request about meetings between staff of Operation Grange and BBC Crimewatch CMOMM

Posted by Tony Bennett
Friday 30 May 2014 at 6:37 am


Dear Mr Bennett

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2014010000368

I respond in connection with your request for information which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 03/01/2014. I note you seek access to the following information:

 
These questions relate to the contacts between staff of Operation Grange and the makers of the BBC Crimewatch Special on Madeleine McCann on 14 October 2013.

1. Please state

(a) the date and

(b) the circumstances under which the Metropolitan Police Operation Grange Team and the BBC Crimewatch team first discussed the making of the programme about Madeleine McCann transmitted on 14 October 2013

2. Please list all occasions since then, giving the dates, on which any member of Operation Grange met any member of the BBC Crimewatch Team (or anyone else from the BBC), either physically, or by video conference - and for each occasion, list the numbers of Operation Grange members who attended each meeting.

NOTE: This information will be very easy to find from DCI Andy Redwood's Policy Folder on Grange's relations with BBC Crimewatch.

DECISION

Section 14 (1) - Vexatious or repeated requests

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 14(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) I have decided to refuse your request as it has been deemed as a vexatious request.

Under Section 14(1) of the Act, a public authority does not have to comply with vexatious requests. There is no requirement for a public interest test.

You have made multiple requests for information relating to the Operation Grange investigation. You have also engaged in voluminous correspondence with the Operation Grange team all regarding this single investigation.

You have been warned previously about the vexatious nature of these requests.

The Act was designed to give individuals a greater right of access to official information with the intention of making public bodies more transparent and accountable.

Whilst most people exercise this right responsibly, a few may misuse or abuse the Act by submitting requests which are intended to be annoying or disruptive or which have a disproportionate impact on a public authority.

The Information Commissioner recognises that dealing with unreasonable requests can place a strain on resources and get in the way of delivering mainstream services or answering legitimate requests. Furthermore, these requests can also damage the reputation of the legislation itself.

See also: Latest News page

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files

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