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

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details    

Gerry McCann: IBA Conference, Madrid *


Gerry McCann speaks at the IBA Annual Conference, 06 October 2009

Gerry McCann speaks at the International Bar Association (IBA) Annual Conference in Madrid, 06 October 2009

Media Law Committee Sessions, October 2009
Media Law Committee Sessions International Bar Association

- Mark H Stephens Finers Stephens Innocent, London, England; Council Member, Human Rights Institute
International approaches to reputation management

Session Co-Chairs
Mark H Stephens Finers Stephens Innocent, London, England; Council Member, Human Rights Institute
Nigel Tait Carter-Ruck, London, England; Publications Officer, Media Law Committee

In this session leading media lawyers will explore the different approaches that can be adopted by lawyers in various jurisdictions to protect the reputations of their clients, whether individual or corporate.

Amongst the topics that the panel will examine during this lively interactive session are 'libel tourism', the challenges presented by online publication and the consequences for freedom of speech now that the European Court of Human Rights has declared that reputation is a human right.

Mr Gerry McCann will be the keynote speaker. Mr McCann and his wife Kate found themselves facing the unrelenting glare of the world’s media following the abduction of their daughter, Madeleine, in May 2007. Mr McCann will speak about their fight to hold the press to account following the publication of defamatory allegations and their securing of unprecedented front page apologies from four national newspapers, together with £550,000 in damages (which were paid to the fund set up to search for Madeleine).

Keynote speaker
Gerry McCann Father of Madeleine McCann, England

Herman Croux Marx Van Ranst Vermeersch & Partners, Brussels, Belgium; Chair,
Copyright and Entertainment Law
Roger Mann Damm & Mann, Hamburg, Germany;
Julian Porter QC Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Kelli L Sager David Wright Tremaine LLP, Los Angeles, California, USA; Vice-Chair, Media Law Committee
Paul Tweed Johnsons Solicitors, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Committee news would like to commend the superb quality of this edition of our Committee publication and convey thanks to our publications officer, Nigel Tait (and his colleague Athalie Matthews) of Carter Ruck in London for his efforts in producing such a great edition. I look forward to seeing many of you in Madrid where we have a full and lively programme including Mr Gerry McCann who will talk about the loss and search for his daughter, Madeleine, and the challenges of the media traducing his reputation in the wake of that loss. We are holding a networking dinner (together with the Technology Law Committee) in Madrid on Thursday 8 October at 9.30pm at Casino de Madrid (Glorieta Room) – which should allow you time to circulate round a few cocktail parties first. Do book early as we expect this event to sell out quickly. Further details about the Madrid conference are available on page 6.

Finally, please do send me any suggestions that you have for the IBA Annual Conference in Vancouver in 2010.

Best wishes
Mark Stephens

Lessons learned the hard way: the reporting of the Madeleine McCann investigation

The tragic disappearance of three year old Madeleine McCann from a holiday apartment in Portugal has without doubt been one of the most prominent news stories in the UK for many years, and attracted considerable media coverage around the world.

Madeleine was abducted on the night of 3 May 2007 while her parents Gerry and Kate McCann dined with friends in a nearby tapas restaurant. The alarm was quickly raised to try to find their daughter, and public interest in the story fuelled a voracious desire by the media to report on the investigation and on Madeleine's likely whereabouts.

Although the case of Madeleine McCann is in many ways – thankfully – unique, the reporting of the investigation highlights a number of interesting aspects of English media law.

Beyond the reach of contempt of court laws

When the story broke, the media was immediately faced with a problem: there was enormous public interest in Madeleine's fate, but Portuguese law forbade either the police or, to a considerable extent, the McCanns themselves from providing information to the press about the investigation.

Unlike in the UK, where the police routinely brief the press on major investigations (both officially and off the record), journalists found themselves in a complete vacuum of confirmed facts yet under enormous editorial pressure to get a scoop on the latest developments.

What ensued was increasingly wild speculation about what had happened to Madeleine, as the finger of suspicion was pointed at a number of individuals – including, most notably, Madeleine's parents.

Kate and Gerry McCann were named as 'arguidos' by the Portuguese police on 7 September 2007 – which in fact meant they were 'persons of interest' to the Portuguese police, rather than that they were formally suspects, as the term 'arguido' was frequently mis-translated by the British press.

It was during this time that the McCanns were interviewed by Portuguese police, which sent the media into a frenzy of even wilder speculation.

Had the case concerned a criminal investigation in the UK, then the press would have been far more restricted by the laws of contempt of court. Section 2 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 makes it an offence of strict liability to publish anything which creates a 'substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be seriously impeded or prejudiced.' The provision applies only to 'active' proceedings, which in essence means after someone has been arrested for, or charged with, a criminal offence. Although the McCanns were not arrested or charged under Portuguese law, the Contempt of Court Act in any event applies only to criminal proceedings brought in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; as such the media were able to report on the police investigation into the McCanns' alleged involvement with scant regard for how their coverage may ultimately prejudice any prosecution.

Wrongly accused

Of course, no prosecution was ultimately brought against the McCanns; having protested their innocence throughout, the Portuguese Prosecutor finally exonerated them on 21 July 2008 when their 'arguido' status was lifted and it was confirmed that there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest that they had played any part in their daughter's disappearance.

But throughout the autumn and early winter of 2007, the McCanns had continued to be the focus of relentless, and at times hysterical media coverage which made various allegations to the effect that they had killed their daughter and had conspired to cover-up her death.

Pleas made to the press to exercise greater caution and balance in reporting the story fell on deaf ears, and when the onslaught of allegations continued the McCanns decided they had to take action – not least because they feared that the campaign to find Madeleine would be irreparably damaged for as long as the public was misled into believing (entirely wrongly) that her parents had killed her.

In January 2008, complaints in libel were sent to four national newspapers published by the Express Group – the Daily Express, the Daily Star and their sister Sunday titles. These newspapers more than any had published grossly defamatory articles about the McCanns, often under sensational front page headlines such as 'PARENTS' CAR HID A CORPSE' and 'MADDIE MUM "SOLD HER".'

Because of the news 'vacuum', many of the articles complained of appeared to be based on nothing more than speculation, information from purported (but unnamed) 'police sources', and allegations regurgitated from the Portuguese press.

It is open to a newspaper to defend a libel complaint on a number of grounds. The most obvious defence is that of justification – if a defendant can prove that the allegations it published were substantially true, then the libel claim will fail. However, given the lurid and utterly baseless allegations which the McCanns complained about, a defence of justification seemed out of the question.

A second defence open to media defendants in England and Wales is that of Reynolds qualified privilege – responsible journalism on a matter of public interest. This defence is in a state of evolution, but there is an increasing body of English law which suggests that neutral reporting of serious allegations over a long period may be defensible, especially on a matter of high public interest – even where those allegations turn out to be untrue. However, it was immediately apparent that on any analysis the Express and Star's journalism was anything but responsible. While their journalists may have hoped that including token references to the McCanns' denials of wrongdoing may have been sufficient, it was clear that this did nothing to provide the balance necessary for a Reynolds defence to succeed.

It was perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the Express Group responded to the McCanns' libel complaints by admitting liability for the libels it had published about them.

Righting the wrong

The volume of the libellous coverage published – over 100 articles were complained about, many of them front-page – was unique in the history of English libel law. In the circumstances, the Express Group were forced to agree to take the equally unprecedented step of publishing prominent apologies on the front pages of the four newspapers in question.

The highly unusual nature of the complaints also had an effect on the damages which were claimed from the Express Group.

Under English libel law, general damages have for some time been effectively 'capped' in the region of a £200,000 to £250,000 maximum for awards made at trial, amounts which would of course be reduced where cases settle out of court.

However, quite apart from the fact that Gerry and Kate McCann were each entitled to claim separately for the damage they had each suffered, their case appeared to be in the territory of a potential exemplary damages claim.

Exemplary, or punitive, damages are available only in limited circumstances under English law – in libel proceedings the claimant must prove that the defendant has published the articles complained of 'with guilty knowledge, for the motive that the chances of economic advantage outweigh the chances of economic penalty' (Broome v Cassell 1972 A.C. 1027 at 1079). In practice, this can be a very difficult hurdle for a claimant to overcome, as not only does it involve demonstrating that the defendant was, at the very least, reckless as to the truth or falsity of the allegations complained of, but also that it acted in the hope or expectation of material gain.

Newspapers of course contain a large number of articles, so it will usually be impossible to prove that when the defendant took the decision to publish the article complained of, it expected this would lead to an increase in sales.

However, the sheer number of Express Group articles containing allegations about the McCanns – together with anecdotal evidence to the effect that a front-page article about Madeleine McCann added as many as 70,000 copies to the circulation of the Daily Express – suggested that a credible case for exemplary damages may be made out by the McCanns.

In the end, the question did not have to be decided in court, as the parties were able to agree an out of court settlement. However, the total amount agreed – £550,000, which was donated at the McCanns' request to the Find Madeleine Fund – suggests that the Express Group may have accepted that there was a real risk of an exemplary damages award being made against them if the matter did ever come to court.

The front page apologies and damages paid to the McCanns on 19 March 2008, together with the subsequent exoneration of the McCanns by the Portuguese prosecutor, have not only gone a long way to repairing the damage caused to the McCanns' reputations by the press, but have also undoubtedly caused the press to question their reporting methods in ongoing criminal investigations. Such are the repercussions of the case that it forms a central part of an ongoing UK Parliamentary inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel – indeed Mr McCann has recently given evidence to a government committee hearing on his family's experiences of the media.

As Kate and Gerry McCann's search for their daughter continues, it is to be hoped that the press as a whole has learned from what proved to be a very expensive lesson for the Express Group.

Gerry McCann speaks at IBA Annual Conference, Madrid, 06 October 2009
Gerry McCann speaks at IBA Annual Conference, Madrid International Bar Association

06 October 2009

Gerry McCann, father of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, was the keynote speaker at an IBA Annual Conference session of the Media Law Committee. He spoke about his relationship with the media and media law over the past two years.

Other high profile speakers at the session included Herman Croux, Roger Mann, Julian Porter, Kelli Sager, Paul Tweed and Adam Tudor.

The session was chaired by Mark Stephens and Nigel Tait.

Nigel Tait, session co-chair: I'm delighted to introduce our panel of speakers to you, all of whom are acknowledged experts in the field of media law. First we have Herman Croux from Brussels in Belgium. Herman has acted as an adviser to the Belgian Government on constitutional and judicial reform and was an assistant professor at the University of Lervin. Herman is a regular speaker at international conferences and is chair of the Copyright and Entertainment Law Committee of the IBA. He has been involved in many notable cases including the constitutionality of The Protection of Journalists' Sources Act before the Constitutional Court.

Then we have Doctor Roger Mann from Hamburg in Germany. Roger is a specialist in defamation litigation and acts for national magazine and newspaper publishers as well as for politicians and chief executive officers. Recently he’s acted for the Quant family and Susan Clatton, who are the main shareholders in BMW, over reports about an attempted blackmail.

From Toronto in Canada, I'm pleased to introduce Julian Porter QC who was called to the bar in 1964 and has practised litigation ever since. Julian has defended many of Canada's leading writers, publishers and magazines and has acted for a large number of plaintiffs, suing newspapers and television stations. Julian has also produced two excellent conference papers which can be found on the IBA in Madrid conference website; one on the libel case brought by Richard Desmond against Tom Bauer and one dwelling on the deadpan humour of a British judge in the privacy case of Max Mosley against the News of the World.

Our next panellist is Kelli Sager from Los Angeles in California. Kelli is one of the only two lawyers in the United States to have been given the prestigious star ranking by the Chambers USA guide in the field of first amendment law and she represents the whole spectrum of media defendants including claims for libel, breach of privacy, reporters' shield laws and internet law.

Next from Belfast and Dublin we have Paul Tweed. Paul has practised as a media lawyer for over 30 years and is well known in the United Kingdom for acting for high profile Hollywood personalities such as Britney Spears and Harrison Ford, who on one view instructed Paul to clear their names of false allegations, well, but on another view represent libel tourists who exploit claimant friendly UK libel laws. But one sure way of telling that Paul is an accomplished lawyer is the fact that he also represents the selfsame journalists and newspapers that he has sued on behalf of claimants, but not at the same time!

Also joining us today is Adam Tudor who successfully represented our key note speaker today, Gerry McCann, against the British press, and who can tell and talk about legal aspects of the case. My co-chairman today is one of the most well known lawyers in the United Kingdom. When I suggested to The Times newspaper that they write an article on what has happened to all the great characters in the British legal profession, we struggle to think of anyone other than Mark Stephens who could lay claim to such a title. Mark is a highly experienced lawyer, having won the case of Jameel and the Wall Street Journal, Europe, in the House of Lords for the defendant; a case on responsible journalism which most, if not all of us who practise in this area in the law, thought was a sure-fire winner for the claimant, but Mark nevertheless won for the defendant.

Our keynote speaker today is Mr Gerry McCann whose daughter, Madeleine, so tragically disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal in May 2007. Four months later, Madeleine's parents were named as arguidos or persons of interest by the Portuguese police, sending the British media, in particular, into a frenzy of wild speculation and such speculation continued even beyond 21 July, 2008 when the Portuguese police lifted the McCann's arguidos status and confirmed that there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in the disappearance of their daughter.

We so often hear, and rightly so, about the importance of a free press and our friends in the United States jealously guard the First Amendment protection given to the press and to their citizens, but seldom do we hear from those caught in the spotlight of publicity and I'm extremely grateful to Mr McCann for agreeing to be our keynote speaker today. Mr McCann will stay for questions but now I would like him to tell you his story. Thank you very much.

Gerry McCann: Thank you, Nigel, and I'm very glad to see that the title says I'm the keynote speaker because this certainly isn't a lecture. I don't have any specific knowledge of the law in the United Kingdom and any other jurisdiction although I've had more than a lifetime's worth of dealing with lawyers over the last two and a half years. So I'm very much speaking regarding our own personal experience of the trauma that we've been caught up in.

I think Nigel's already pointed out some of the main facts. We were on holiday on the 3 May 2007 when Madeleine was abducted from the apartment we were sleeping in. The world media really had descended on Praia de Luz within 24 hours and generally during those first two to three, four months or so, it was incredibly supportive and I'll touch on that in some detail. Towards the end of August, in particular around the time when we were declared arguidos, then we had some of the most vile media reporting probably, certainly in the history of British journalism. And in 2008 we had several libel claims for defamation, and invasion of privacy. Later that year, as Nigel says, the file was closed and the Portuguese judiciary concluded that there is no evidence to support any of the allegations against us and we have continued and ongoing action within Portugal, which I'm not going to speak of very much because it's still in the judicial process.

This is a brief outline of the talk, and I'll probably speak for about 20 minutes. I want to first of all talk about decisions and whether to interact with the media or not. It's not compulsory. I'll talk about a strategy which we tried to employ. We'll show some of the supportive press coverage and I will show you some of the front page headlines which caused us to take action and the results of that legal redress. And I'll conclude with just a few minutes really about some thoughts and our experiences and recommendations or suggestions which is up to the legal profession and the judiciary whether they act on of course.

Interacting with the media

The first thing to say is that you know, it's not compulsory; I think most people feel that when they're caught up in a trauma, that they should interact with the media. Any parent in this audience will understand the complete devastation that we felt when we discovered Madeleine was gone, and particularly within the first few hours when the search around the vicinity of Praia de Luz found no trace of her, and we felt completely devastated. And in the early hours of the morning we phoned family and close friends to tell them of what happened. And I think the feeling of helplessness that Kate and I had was magnified by the distance of our loved ones and what they felt, that they couldn't do anything for us. And actually several people independently contacted the media to tell them what had happened and in fact a very close friend was already distributing photographs of Madeleine to all the major news outlets in the early hours of the morning, which we didn't know.

One thing we were discussing last night over dinner; it was interesting that the only news organisation that actually refused to publish the photograph was the BBC who came back saying 'how do we know this is true, and who are you to distribute the photograph?' Every other news outlet took it straight away and by the early hours of the morning it was already on our breakfast television in the UK. By the time Kate and I returned from the police station about 9 o'clock at night, there were approximately 200 journalists in Praia de Luz.

I can't say for certain what factors were influencing this intense media interest within 24 hours of her abduction. I think the fact that it was a foreign child abducted on holiday certainly played a key part. The only other case we can think of in the United Kingdom was of Ben Needham, who was abducted in 1991 on a Greek island. And we don't know of any other cases involving British children taken whilst on holiday, so that certainly played a part. The fact that we were doctors seemed to influence things and that this had happened to professional couple and I think Madeleine's picture herself that she was such a beautiful innocent young girl who was taken and clearly many of the journalists involved felt a great deal of empathy with us as well.

Clearly the holiday company saw this media needed to be managed and engaged Bell Pottinger straight away and they sent out their head of crisis management, Alex Woolfall, to deal with the media. They also provided to us trauma counselling, which was very, very important in how we dealt with the situation. And we had counselling sessions within 36 hours of this happening and I have to say it played a tremendous part in helping me cope with the situation and try to do things to influence the outcome. I'd like to play a video, if we can get this.

Video: 'One cannot describe the anguish and despair that we are feeling as the parents of our beautiful daughter, Madeleine. We request that anyone who may have any information related to Madeleine's disappearance, no matter how trivial, contact the Portuguese police and help us get her back safely. Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come home to her mummy, daddy, brother and sister. As everyone can understand how distressing the current situation is, we ask that our privacy is respected to allow us to continue assisting the police in their investigation. Thank you.'

Gerry McCann: That video's from about 9.30 pm on the 4th of May and I wanted to show it because I think even at that stage when I saw the media it filled me with dread about the potential intrusion of privacy, but I also saw it as an opportunity of helping the search, and the salient point, I haven't seen that video for at least 18 months, and it brought back to me, the salient points of which we were trying to achieve; to get information into the investigation, which we still strive to do, as Madeleine is still missing, secondly, to let as many people as possible, know that Madeleine is missing, and thirdly, even though in that first night we were already concerned about intrusion of privacy, and I think I’ll show you in the following slides that we had very good reasons to be concerned.

So the primary objectives were to get the best possible investigation so when I put the slide up showing that we were talking about the campaign strategy, much of it was not media related, and so we had very early contact with the UK foreign office and other government officials striving to get the best possible investigation. We had to look at getting information into the enquiry and after the first few days when Madeleine was not discovered in the vicinity of the Algarve, then we had to think okay, where could she have been taken, and that influenced the decisions in which countries to visit and try and target so Spain's a neighbouring country to Portugal, so one of the first things that we did was we got a message to David Beckham, asking him to do an appeal. He was playing for Real Madrid in this very city at the time and he agreed to that and did a very emotional appeal. And that had an amazing effect on the overall campaign because he was such a worldwide superstar and it seemed to have a snowball effect.

We took advice from the crisis management team and Alex Woolfall was absolutely brilliant. What he said to us was that for any media that you do, you must clearly define what your objective is from doing the media and secondly, ask yourself the question, how is it going to help, and that helped us tremendously with our future press conferences, statements and photo calls. We also did a number of TV and magazine interviews, I have to say, mainly at the request of the media, and that is one of the times where Alex would say you're just feeding the beast. We subsequently had a public audience with the Pope and we had visits to Spain appealing for information and help and also we went to Germany and the Netherlands who make up the largest group of tourists to the Algarve, after the British and Irish, and we also visited Morocco which is obviously not far across the Mediterranean.

This early media coverage was generally very, very supportive. The largest weekly newspaper in the United Kingdom, the News of the World, had got a number of celebrities to agree to contribute to an award and £1.5 million was pledged. Additionally we had a businessman from Scotland who pledged another £1 million. There was, without doubt, unprecedented public interaction.

There were a huge amount of posters put up all over the United Kingdom and further afield and generally there was a focus on trying to find Madeleine and/or her abductors. The poster in the middle was released with JK Rowling's last Harry Potter book and at the time, particularly in those first few weeks, I would say that the normal media rivalry between different organisations was put to one side and there was a real feeling that people would not let such tragic crimes happen again and that we really were going to make a difference and try and find Madeleine.

I think, I don't expect you to read all of this, but this was an editorial in a larger selling daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, The Sun, which was printed the day after we did our first TV interviews which was more than three weeks after Madeleine was abducted and I would just like to point out the very bottom line and it says The Sun is proud, with other newspapers, to play our part in their hunt, meaning Kate and I's hunt, for Madeleine and that summed up the general feeling at the time.

However, we even early on, realised there were a number of drawbacks of having such intense media coverage. There was a voracious, almost insatiable appetite for new stories in relation to Madeleine and actually the media were generally operating in a vacuum because of Portugal's judicial secrecy laws and that the police weren't allowed to speak directly to the media. We didn't want to give too much information regarding exactly what happened and the timeline, for two reasons; one, fear of breaking the judicial law and secondly, we didn't want the abductor to know information or put it in the public domain that only that other person could know.

Within weeks we already saw that there was a focus in the media coverage. There was a switching of attention away from Madeleine and it started to become the Kate and Gerry show. There was intense pressure to do media, which I have to say would have been for media sake, which we tried to resist. And it also became clear to us that Madeleine stories were selling newspapers and that there had to be a Madeleine story and she was becoming a commodity and people were starting to forget that she was a real child.

In June 2007, after we completed our visit, we tried to signal a change in our strategy. We appointed a campaign manager and her role was not directly a spokesperson. We anticipated that the media interest would naturally dwindle and the role was really about ensuring that we could maintain a search in the long term. We also signalled that Kate and I would not be making regular press statements or conferences and we asked the media to no longer photograph our two-year-old twins. We hadn't asked for that immediately, primarily because I just didn't think it was enforceable, given the huge amount of media attention and particularly in another country. We might have managed it in the UK but even I doubt it there.

Towards the end of August and September 2007 there was really quite a dramatic change in the media coverage. We were declared arguidos, which the closest thing in UK law is a person of interest and what that allows you to do is have a lawyer present during interviews. And it means that the police have to ask you questions in which your answers may incriminate yourself and as witnesses you're not allowed to have a lawyer present and you must answer all questions. So being given the status of arguidos is actually to protect your own legal interest, and whereas that was just translated as suspects, and very much led to a number of damaging headlines.

There were multiple headlines that accused us either of directly killing Madeleine or being involved in disposing of her body and you can imagine how distressing this was when we were trying to ensure that there was an active and ongoing search and clearly we felt if people believed these stories, particularly in Portugal and further afield, then there could be no search, if people believed Madeleine was dead.

I'm just going to spend a minute or two showing you some of the front page headlines that were printed in the United Kingdom press. I would also like to point out that Amelie, who's being carried by Kate here's face is not pixelated so suddenly as we were declared arguidos it was okay to have our children's photographs published on front page of newspaper again with millions of circulation, put on the internet: the multiple references to DNA in the cars, hair.

So when we came back to United Kingdom we felt that we had to do that to protect ourselves from the intrusion. We did try and combat these negative stories and really we had a trial by media at this point. The criminal lawyers who were appointed to defend us had multiple visits to the editors of all the national newspapers along with our spokesperson. And I can tell you that they assured the editors that there was not a shred of evidence to back up these wild allegations. There was a letter from the chief constable of Leicestershire police who was leading the investigation from the United Kingdom end, urging restraint in the coverage and emphasising that many of the stories that were published, had no grain of truth to them.

We also had further discussions with the Press Complaints Commission about how we may stop such coverage but despite these actions, the front page headlines continued and the previous ones all happened within a week of us coming back from Portugal. These ones are later. We are now into October and DNA reference once again; further ones in October. Now into the end of November and getting increasingly bizarre and ultimately in the space of five days, there were three front page headlines in January of 2008, that were regurgitating the same stories and for us, we come to breaking point. And at that point, although we'd had discussions earlier with Carter Ruck and Adam Tudor who's here today, we felt enough is enough and we agreed to issue complaint letters against the worst offender and we also got an agreement from Carter Ruck that if the case did go to court, then they would represent us on a conditional fee arrangement, which was very important to our decision to press the button. The letters of complaint requested the removal of online versions of the articles, full apologies and we asked for damages and of course costs.

After an initial short wrangle, the newspapers did not defend these complaints and they did not argue for defence of truth of responsible journalism, which we were advised would have stood very little chance in a court of law. The complaints were settled out of court to our satisfaction and I have to say that we had unprecedented front page apologies and additionally a statement was read out in front of the judge in the London's High Court.

A total of £550,000 paid in damages by one publisher alone, which was at our request, paid directly into Madeleine's fund. This is the fund that we set up to help the search and we were told that the sum reflected the amount of damages the distress would have caused us. And there were certainly discussions that if this had gone to court, we could have argued for exemplary damages and to be honest the QC whose counsel we took, suggested that the damages we could have got would have been much, much higher than what we accepted but the most important thing for us was to get this out and to stop the coverage. And that was a main motivation for doing it. Additionally the seven friends who were on holiday with us, who had many similar allegations of being involved in a cover-up, were awarded £375,000 which they agreed also to pay into Madeleine's fund, and we had a further small settlement with one other publisher.

Without a doubt there was an effect of these successful complaints. There was massive TV coverage and in some of the news channels it was the main news item that day. Although there was lots of press present at the High Court reading, there was rather less coverage in the newspapers, which is not surprising. Subsequent to that, I would have to say there was a dramatic effect with much more cautious and responsible reporting. And one of our concerns was obviously whether we would have burned our bridges with the media and we would no longer get co-operation when we wanted them to put information out but that has not been the case. There is still tremendous amount of appetite when we helped the media to help us get messages to the general public.

We mentioned invasion of privacy and clearly we couldn't stop being photographed. On the very first night, the tour operators asked us if we wanted to go to a villa and I said I felt that would be worse. We'd be completely hemmed in with all the media at the end of a drive and we did stay in a holiday complex and it did allow us to move around. However when we returned home, we had news journalists and paparazzi at the end of our drive for several months, ramming cameras into the car, including when the twins were in it.

Even early on there seemed to be a complete blurring of what would be considered our public persona, doing things that related to Madeleine, and what was private so we were followed around, followed on the beach. The children were being followed and photographed, and even when we tried to get away from it all, there were surreptitious journalists trying to obtain photographs on us on our first holiday without Madeleine and they did manage to find us at the airport when we were returning home.

The Press Complaints Commission in the UK generally have been helpful in enforcing protecting the privacy of our children and that's something that I'm not sure exists in other countries as well. The greatest violation of our invasion of privacy was the publication of Kate's, translation of Kate's journal, which was seized during the initial police investigation. And actually there is a judge's order in the Portuguese file which ordered the destruction of all copies of the journal as being of no interest to the investigation. And this article, front page, with several pages, word for word of the journal was published inside, was done without our consent, and we very rapidly complained. That journal was written for Madeleine and for our other children and I cannot tell you how distressing it was for Kate to be told that it had been published. That complaint was settled, I have to say quickly, with the publishers who had been supportive up to that point generally.

I'd just like to finish with a few thoughts: If I was asked to go back and would I have interacted with the media in the same way then the answer would have been almost completely yes. We did it with the best intentions. Our hope was to get the best possible search and in fact we will continue to interact with the media if it's appropriate. With hindsight, I would have made a clearer boundary and withdrawn from allowing the media to photograph us doing anything that was not Madeleine related in public. And again with hindsight, although we were absolutely certain when it came to it, that we were ready to take action, with hindsight we should have taken action earlier, against the newspapers in the UK for publishing these stories.

These really are just some thoughts for the future rather than anything that may be enforced in law, but we do know, and the media know, that they're incredibly powerful. In the past they've been showing it by displaying images and they can help find children and that was why we chose to interact with them. However they have the potential to destroy lives and if we had not been supported as well as we had, by many different people including Carter Ruck, then they could have destroyed our lives and what was already seriously damaged.

So with such power comes marked responsibility. I think it is extremely important that ordinary people like ourselves do have the right to legal redress and I'm not sure that we could have gone through with these complaints against large organisations without the safety net of a conditional fee arrangement and that is certainly something that I think within the UK, should continue. And I'd like to ask for an appeal to the media, to remember that at the centre of every tragic story there are real people and real children and real families and we are not characters. Thank you.

Gerry McCann speaks at IBA Annual Conference, Madrid (videos), 06 October 2009

Madeleine's parents may return to Praia da Luz before the end of the year, 06 October 2009
Madeleine's parents may return to Praia da Luz before the end of the year El Confidencial

Gerry McCann speaking at the international lawyers' congress in Madrid, 06 October 2009
Gerry McCann speaking in Madrid today

EFE - 06/10/2009 12:48
Thanks to 
Astro for translation

Madrid, 6 Oct (EFE) – The parents of Madeleine McCann, Gerry and Kate, may return to the Portuguese village of Praia da Luz, where their daughter disappeared from, before the end of the year.

Thus said today the father of the little girl that disappeared in May 2007 while the family enjoyed their holiday at said village in the Portuguese Algarve.

"Kate would like to return to Praia da Luz when things are less intense, but we'd like it to be a private visit, probably before the end of the year," said Gerry McCann.

McCann intervened in the international lawyers' congress, which is held at the Municipal Conventions' Palace in Madrid, as a lecturer on a panel about the media and the right to privacy and to reputation.

In a statement after his participation, McCann asserted that, although there was no advancement in the investigation, there is also "absolutely no indication that she suffered any hurt or harm, therefore we must believe that she is alive out there and we cannot stop looking for her".

"As parents, it is our obligation to continue searching for her; we must convince people that the searches must continue, and we should return to Portugal," he said.

The McCann couple were in Portugal in late September, in order to reactivate the search for their daughter.

Speaking in front of an image of his daughter just like she was when she disappeared, and a computer-generated one of how she might look almost three years later, McCann underlined that "just because she disappeared over 2-and-a-half years ago, people should not forget about Madeleine or about the search for her."

Gerry McCann press comments at conference, 06 October 2009
Gerry McCann press comments at conference


By Nigel Moore

Gerry McCann: "There was a lot of information came in after an investigator asked for information regarding the... the Barcelona sighting, so that's ongoing; I can't give you any more details."


Gerry McCann: "We have not lost hope though and, errr... there have been a number of children who have been, errr... abducted and missing for prolonged periods of time, that have been successfully recovered. There is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine has been seriously harmed and therefore, as her parents, we have to believe that she is alive, and out there, and we cannot give up looking for her."

Kate and Gerry set to return to Praia, 07 October 2009
Kate and Gerry set to return to Praia The Sun

Hope... Gerry McCann in Madrid

Published: Today (07 October 2009)

BRAVE Kate McCann will return to Praia da Luz for a first visit since daughter Maddie was abducted, husband Gerry said yesterday.

The couple are planning the trip to the resort - where Maddie, then three, vanished from an apartment in May 2007 - before the end of the year.

Gerry, 41, said: "It is the last place she saw Madeleine and there is an emotional bond. There are people we would like to see and places Kate would like to return to.

"Now things are less intense she would like to do that in private. It is going to be a very emotional experience."

Gerry, speaking at a legal conference in Madrid about media coverage of the case, has been back to Portugal's Praia da Luz since cops cleared the McCanns of any involvement in Maddie's disappearance.

Kate, 41, has always felt "too raw" to return. But she expressed a wish to go back during a trip to Portugal last month to see the pair's Lisbon-based lawyers.

She was yesterday at home in Rothley, Leics, with four-year-old twins Amelie and Sean. She has been feeling "very positive" since the Lisbon trip, Gerry revealed.

He added: "It made people realise the search for Madeleine was carrying on."

Gerry said he and Kate were boosted by last week's Channel 4 documentary on Jaycee Lee Duggard, the US girl found alive in August after being abducted 18 years ago.

He said: "It was distressing at times but the story was important for us because it gives hope.

"There is absolutely no evidence Madeleine has been seriously harmed. We can't give up looking for her."

Kate and Gerry McCann plan first trip back to Portugal resort where Madeleine vanished, 07 October 2009
Kate and Gerry McCann plan first trip back to Portugal resort where Madeleine vanished Daily Mail

Gerry McCann delivers a speech to the International Bar Association

Last updated at 12:38 AM on 07th October 2009

From Tom Worden
Kate McCann is preparing to return to the resort in Portugal where her daughter Madeleine vanished.

Husband Gerry revealed they were planning to visit Praia da Luz before the end of the year.

The trip will be the first time Mrs McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, has been back to the Algarve resort since Madeleine, then aged three, disappeared in May 2007.

Mr McCann said: 'It was the last place she saw Madeleine and there is an emotional bond.'

Speaking at the International Bar Association's conference in Madrid, he also said the family had taken heart from the reappearance of Jaycee Lee Dugard in the U.S., after 18 years in captivity.

He said: 'It gave us hope.'

It will be the first time Kate has visited Praia da Luz since the McCanns left Portugal after being named as "arguidos" or people of interest to the investigation in September 2007.

Mr McCann has been back since, but his wife has previously felt the wounds caused be her daughter's disappearance have been too raw for her to return.

Last month the McCanns, both 41-year-old doctors from Rothley, Leics, visited the Portuguese capital Lisbon to meet with lawyers to discuss their £1million lawsuit against Goncalo Amaral, the police officer who bungled the Madeleine investigation.

Mr McCann said yesterday: ;That was Kate's first visit to Portugal (since Madeleine disappeared) and she is very keen to go back again.

'We felt the visit was very positive because it made people realise the search is still going on.

'She would very much like to go back to Praia da Luz now that things are less intense. She would like that to be private as it's going to be a very emotional experience.

'It was the last place she saw Madeleine and there is an emotional bond. We are looking at potential dates although no date has been set yet.

'We have very good friends there, and there are lots of people we want to see.'

Mr McCann was speaking to reporters at the International Bar Association's annual conference in Madrid, where he gave a speech on his family's relationship with the media.

After the speech he said he and wife Kate had taken heart from the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard, the Californian woman freed in August after 18 years in captivity.

He said they had been moved by the Channel 4 documentary on the kidnapping, Captured for 18 Years: The Jaycee Lee Story, screened last week.

Mr McCann said watching the programme 'had brought back some awful memories.'

But he added: 'Kate and I have never lost hope and the Jaycee Lee Dugard story was important for us.

'It was an incredibly tragic case, but it gave us hope.

'We sympathise and empathise with her and her family and everyone involved.'

Feeding the Beast… Madeleine McCann's Father, Gerry, Explains Why He Sued the Press, 12 October 2009
Feeding the Beast… Madeleine McCann's Father, Gerry, Explains Why He Sued the Press This Day


Two years after the dramatic abduction of his daughter, Madeleine, which captured the attention of the international press, Gerry McCann was at the Madrid venue of this year's international conference to tell the world's lawyers and media why his family sued the press for libel and why he wished they should have sued earlier. FUNKE ABOYADE was there

Gerry McCann, father of abducted British girl, Madeleine, last week spoke with media lawyers and indeed, the media from across the world about his family's experience and distress following the abduction of the 3 year old and the subsequent publication by the press of defamatory allegations against them.

McCann spoke at last Tuesday's session on International Approaches to Reputation Management at the Campo de las Naciones, Madrid venue of the IBA conference. The session dealt with the different approaches that could be adopted by lawyers in various jurisdictions to protect their clients' reputations.

On May 3 2007, Madeleine was snatched by a yet unknown abductor as she slept whilst her parents dined at the Portuguese resort town of Praia da Luz where the McCann family was holidaying. Her abduction sparked off unprecedented international media attention, initially sympathetic but which later turned hostile in the UK and Portuguese press.

Dr. McCann relived the agony, trauma and feelings of helplessness of his family in the months following their little girl's disappearance. To add to that agony, the UK press which had initially been sympathetic, turned hostile and went to town with wild and unfounded allegations which implied that the McCanns, both Medical Doctors, had somehow been involved in Madeleine's disappearance.

McCann, who spoke in an emotional laden voice, told the audience, 'Many of the stories were written with little or no foundation'.

His presentation included a slide show that ended with a heartrending poster of his daughter headlined, DON'T GIVE UP ON ME. The poster had two photographs of Madeleine, one as at the time of abduction and the other, a computer simulated photograph to show how she might look, two years on, aged 6. The poster remained on the giant screen until the end of the 3 hour session.

McCann recalled the unwarranted media intrusion in his family's personal life, saying that 200 journalists were camped out on their front lawn the day after they returned to the UK. Thereafter, they followed the couple even whilst out jogging and once on the golf course. Just the week before they had, he said, even followed his wife, Kate, into a dress shop!

He called for responsible journalism as he recalled some of the more scurrilous headlines by some leading British newspapers.

At the interactive session which included panelists from Canada, the United States, Belgium, Germany and his own lawyer, McCann explained why no family should ever have to go through what they went through again.

He also explained why, in spite of his counsel's advice to the contrary, they decided to settle the cases out of court. The focus, he explained, was on finding Madeleine and they didn't want to fight their battles on too many fronts thereby getting distracted. The fact they would have received much higher damages had they proceeded to a full trial was not enough to deter them from accepting a lesser sum for settling out of court. The sum, almost half a million Pounds, went to the fund set up to find the missing child.

Their seven friends who had been on holiday with them and who were also libeled similarly sued and received sums in out of court settlements which they donated to the fund.

In addition, there were unprecedented front page apologies to the McCanns by the concerned newspapers.

'There has to be a deterrent' McCann asserted, 'it's not enough to say sorry, someone has to pay'.

By September of 2007 the media had turned against the McCanns causing them in Dr. McCann’s words, 'unspeakable distress'.

McCann who gamely fielded questions from the sessions two co-Chairs said, 'Our whole family could have been destroyed by this'.

He described the double edged sword nature of the media: they intruded upon their privacy and at the same time, provided an opportunity to help them out in the search for Madeleine.

There was a lively debate about where to draw the line between private and public boundaries for the press, with some speakers worrying about the danger of 'feeding the beast'.

Others expressed the view that investigative journalism should not be curtailed as it very often had played a role in uncovering the truth. They referred to recent the Scott Peterson case in the United States where media investigations revealed that the grieving husband of a missing pregnant woman was actually the perpetrator of her hideous murder. They also pointed out similar cases like the Kelly Anderson case and the Jon Benet Ramsay case, the latter still unsolved even though accusing fingers had long pointed at the child's parents. Ramsay's mother recently died of cancer and so the truth may never be known.

McCann however insisted, 'It is the Police's job, not the media, to investigate. Our whole family could have been destroyed by this'.

A panelist also expressed worry that it was unacceptable for the press to be investigators, judge and jury stating that it was a dangerous trend.

McCann expressed the view that the effect of the libel complaints was more cautious reporting.

In hindsight, he said, whilst he would have made the same decision to engage the media to enhance the search, he would have withdrawn earlier from allowing them to photograph his family and would have taken legal action earlier against them.

In his recommendations he noted that the media was incredibly powerful and appealed to them to remember that there were 'real people at the centre of every story'.

The intense debate left one wondering whether such parameters as discussed would apply in Nigeria. For instance, McCann's insistence that it was the job of the Police and not the media to investigate.

The Nigeria Force, not in the best of times noted for its investigative prowess, had failed to solve almost all the high profile murder and assassination cases put its way over the last decade, since the advent of democracy. It has similarly failed to resolve murder cases of the lowly placed. In fact if anything, the Nigeria Police is more known for embarrassing and frequent cases of 'accidental discharge' as well as the deliberate gunning down of innocent citizens, the most recent being just last week in Yaba, Lagos.

Its record in the political arena is not different. More often than not, the Nigerian media has been the one to unearth facts which the Nigeria Police has either been reluctant or unable to fish out.

The question is: Would Dr. McCann's view that the media should not investigate work in Nigeria?

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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