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McCanns take legal action against ex-solicitor over Madeleine slurs

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A former solicitor could be jailed for repeatedly accusing Kate and Gerry McCann of covering up the 'death' of their daughter Madeleine. 

Lawyers for the Rothley couple are taking civil action against Tony Bennett to try to stop him making allegations that they were involved in Madeleine's disappearance from the Portuguese resort of Praia de Luz in May 2007.

Tony Bennett could be jailed for repeatedly accusing Kate and Gerry McCann of covering up the 'death' of their daughter Madeleine

Tony Bennett could be jailed for repeatedly accusing Kate and Gerry McCann of covering up the 'death' of their daughter Madeleine

Mr Bennett is secretary of an organisation called the Madeleine Foundation, which repeatedly claimed the three-year-old was not abducted.


The 64-year-old, of Harlow, Essex, signed a High Court agreement in November 2009, to say he would not persist with his accusations.


Court papers say: "The Defendant (Mr Bennett) undertakes not to repeat allegations that the Claimants (The McCanns) are guilty of, or are suspected of, causing the death of their daughter Madeleine McCann: and/or disposing of her body and/or of lying about what happened and/or of seeking to cover up what they had done."


Mr Bennett is accused of being in contempt of court for breaching the agreement in leaflets, books and internet postings.


There will be a hearing at The Queen's Bench Division of the High Court in London next week.


The McCann's spokesman Clarence Mitchell yesterday told the Leicester Mercury: "The matter is in hand with Kate and Gerry's lawyers. It has been pretty distressing for them.


"He has accused them of lying and that is a prima facie libel.


"Kate and Gerry do not want this but he (Mr Bennett) has persisted with making hurtful and untrue allegations about them and they want it to stop.


"They feel enough is enough.


"It is the case that he could face jail."


Madeleine's parents were considered suspects in her disappearance by Portuguese police in the early stages of the investigation, but were subsequently completely cleared of any wrongdoing.


In 2007, Mr Bennett launched a private prosecution against the McCanns, alleging child neglect, but it was thrown out by magistrates. In summer 2009, the Madeleine Foundation delivered leaflets around Rothley relating to the youngster's disappearance.


Mr Bennett was unavailable to comment yesterday.


In a story about his prosecution in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Bennett said: "I have done my best to comply with the undertaking but I would argue to the courts it was an unreasonably wide undertaking to sign.


"In the last two years, I have not written specifically about the details of how she (Madeleine) might have died or how the body was hidden.


"Three of my colleagues in the Madeleine Foundation distributed a small quantity of leaflets in Rothley. I would honestly say perhaps that was a leaflet distribution too far."


He added on the Madeleine Foundation website: "It will be a strange thing if the court decides that in this land noted for its commitment to free speech, I am not allowed to discuss what is freely available to be distributed, and debated, in most of the rest of Europe."


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