Grâce à la liberté dans les communications, des groupes d’hommes de même nature pourront se réunir et fonder des communautés. Les nations seront dépassées.
Friedrich Nietzsche (Fragments posthumes XIII-883)

11 - NOV 23 - Audition de G. et K. MC (1)





The Leveson Inquiry into 
the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press



Audition MC (1)  - 23.11.2011
La commission Leveson demandait aux témoins de rédiger une déclaration que présenterait leurs avocats et à propos de laquelle l'avocat général, Robert Jay, leur poserait des questions. GMC rédigea et KMC dit fit sienne sa narration. MR JAY: The next witnesses are Dr and Dr McCann, please. 
DR GERALD PATRICK McCANN and DR KATE MARIE McCANN (sworn)
Robert Jay (l'avocat principal) : Thank you very much. First of all, I'm going to invite each of you to provide us with your full names, please.
GMC :  Gerald Patrick McCann.
KMC :  Kate Marie McCann.

Lord Justice Leveson : Before we start, you've probably heard me thank others before you for coming along, voluntarily, to speak of matters which I have no doubt are intensely personal and extremely sensitive, and I am very, very grateful to you for doing so.
In your case, of course, nobody, and in particular nobody with children, could fail to appreciate the terrible impact of your daughter's abduction (1) on you and your family, so words of sympathy for these appalling circumstances are utterly inadequate, but I am very grateful to you for coming. 
  
RJ : I know each of you would like your counsel to ask a few preliminary questions. Before he does so, formally can I invite you to confirm the contents of your respective witness statements. You, Dr Gerald McCann, there's a statement dated 30 October, and there's a statement of truth at the end of it. Is that correct?
GMC : It is.
RJ : And then Dr Kate McCann, a far more recent statement referring to your husband's statement and again with a statement of truth dated 22 November; is that right?
KMC : That's right.
RJ : Just a few questions from Mr Sherborne and then I will proceed.

David Sherborne (représentant de toutes les victimes) : Thank you. As Mr Jay said, I'm going to just ask you a few preliminary questions. Everybody is well aware, particularly following the submissions last week, that you've been forced to take a number of legal complaints or actions as a result of some of the coverage that you received following the abduction of your daughter. Not just articles that were published, but also to stop articles being published, often on weekends, and I know that Mr Jay is going to talk to you about that in due course. Can I just ask you, though, have you ever had to give evidence before?
GMC : No.
DS : So this is the first and, I hope, the last time. Given that you've had a lifetime of lawyers, nice ones, of course, can you just explain to the Inquiry why you've agreed to give evidence?
GMC : I think it's for one simple reason, in that we feel that a system has to be put in place to protect ordinary people from the damage that the media can cause by their activity, which falls well below the standards that I would deem acceptable. 

DS : Of course, we all here understand that your overriding objective is the continuing search for your daughter. We've seen from your statements, or we will see, once the statements are publicly made available, that in terms of reporting, you've experienced what I might call the good, the bad and the particularly ugly side of the press. One might ask this: is it helpful to have Madeleine permanently in the public eye?
GMC : I've talked about this on several occasions in the past, and I do not feel it's helpful, and particularly at the time when there were daily stories running throughout 2007 and 2008. It became very apparent to us early on there was an incredible amount of speculation and misinformation. It led to confusion amongst people. All we need to do is periodically remind the public who have supported us so much that Madeleine is still missing, there's an ongoing search and those responsible for taking her are still at large and have to be brought to justice.
KMC : I was just going to say obviously there was a period when Madeleine was on the front page of a paper every day, and I know occasionally people would say to me "That has to be a good thing, hasn't it? She's in the public eye", and that isn't the case because when the story is so negative about her, and we'll come into that, obviously then that is not helpful. As Gerry said, I think it's a reminder that's important, that's all. 

DS : That's Madeleine. What about you both being in the public eye? Is that helpful?
GMC : I don't think it is helpful. Obviously we realise that as Madeleine's parents, and particularly given what's happened to us, that if we are delivering the message, then it offers more appeal and is more likely to get coverage. And of course we have also acknowledged that the media have been very helpful on occasion particularly when we have launched appeals, and huge amounts of information have come into the inquiry as a direct result of our appeals, and we'd like to thank everyone in the public who have come forward (2)

DS : Finally can I ask you this: there are a number of specific things you'll be asked about and Mr Jay is going to take you through your statement, but it might help Lord Justice Leveson and the Inquiry if you could just outline in very general headline terms what your concerns are about the culture, practices and ethics of the press.
GMC : I think there are four main areas I would be keen to give evidence on that we have direct experience of. One is obviously libel, which has been very well publicised, but then also the lasting damage it causes. Secondly, the privacy laws and current, I would say, gaps in legislation at the minute where companies can use photographs, can hound you, without your consent, for commercial gain. I think there has been contempt demonstrated by the media, primarily the press but to some extent broadcasters as well, both for the judicial process and also at times Madeleine's safety. And the fourth thing, which probably is not regulated by law and I hope this Inquiry will deal with, is about what are acceptable standards and how individual journalists and corporate entities, editors and subeditors, are held to account.
DS : I'm very grateful. If you wait there, Mr Jay has more questions for you. 

RJ : Dr McCann, I have an eye on those four themes and if you don't mind, I'll come back to them at the end of your evidence. Your witness statement is publicly available and I can see it out of the corner of my eye on a screen, but if you could have it in front of you in print, you tell us in terms of your career you're a consultant cardiologist.
GMC : That's correct.
RJ : And in terms of fixing ourselves back into the dates, the abduction of your daughter, I think was it 3 May 2007?
GMC : That's correct.

RJ : You tell us in your witness statement that a photograph was made immediately available, provided to the broadcast media and to the press, and was, as it were, displayed everywhere. Is that correct?
GMC : There's two elements to that. (début vidéo 1) The first element was what we were doing on the night and obviously we had digital cameras and we were trying to get photographs printed of Madeleine from the holiday. 
RJ : Yes.
GMC : To give to the police, but secondly, a very good friend of ours (Jon Corner) who we spoke to in the early hours of 4 May took upon himself to issue photographs of Madeleine to all the major media outlets in the UK.


 
Vidéo 1

RJ : Within a very short space of time, the British press and perhaps the international press had descended on Praia da Luz; is that correct?
GMC : It is.
RJ : And you had to make a decision as to whether to interact with them and, if so, on what basis?
GMC : Yes.
RJ : And what decision did you make and why?
GMC : The first thing to say is it was incredibly daunting. We had been away all day. It was also apparent to us whilst we were in the police station of Portimão in the Algarve that there was already extensive coverage, particularly on Sky News, which was running in the police station, somewhat bizarrely, and when we were driving back towards the apartment, it was in the evening and we could literally see tens, if not hundreds of journalists outside the apartment and satellite vans, et cetera, a large number of cameras. There were two things going through my head: what are they going to be saying? And we've seen, I think, over many years our privacy being invaded and what stories could be published, but ultimately, possibly because we've seen the same thing being done in the UK, I thought it was an opportunity to issue an appeal. I was given no guidance one way or the other whether to do that. I knew there could be a very heavy downside to interacting, but I made the decision at the time with the information I had that it would probably be in the best interests of the search for our daughter, and decided to interact.

RJ : Yes. You say in your statement, paragraph 15, that in the initial stages, your engagement with the press worked well. Are you able to amplify that just a little bit for us, please?
GMC : I think for those people who can remember, it was a very unusual scenario, and we got a distinct impression that there was a genuine want to help attitude from the journalists there, and I think also many of the executives who perhaps saw what had happened to us and there was a huge amount of empathy. So I really did feel early on there was a desire to help.
RJ : As you explain, the position changed, but the segue (3) perhaps into that change is some evidence you give in relation to the Portuguese criminal system. Now each culture, each nation has a slightly different criminal system, and obviously there can be no criticism about that, but what you say in Portugal is that there is no permitted interaction between the law enforcement agencies and the press; is that correct?
GMC : That's correct.

RJ : Do you have a view as to the possible drawbacks of that, without necessarily being critical, but it's pretty obvious it gives rise to the possibility of leaks, doesn't it?
GMC : Sure. I think the system is open to abuse is the first thing, and clearly there was a ferocious appetite and perhaps in the United Kingdom with the SIO and the press office for the constabulary leading the investigation would have had a very clear agenda on how to work with the media, what information could be disclosed, what might be helpful, and steering journalists away from certain areas. Obviously there was none of that happening, and there was tremendous pressure on the Portuguese authorities to interact with the media, and some of you may remember the very first time that happened, the spokesperson gave a short statement that didn't really say anything, was asked a number of questions and followed every single one of them with, "I can't give you any details because of judicial secrecy" (4).
RJ : Yes.
GMC : So there was a huge appetite, and we quickly realised that there was a tremendous amount of speculation in the coverage both in the newspapers and also you had 24-hour news channels there constantly, and we found that to be unhelpful. 

RJ : : : In terms of the conduit type of information, is this correct, that whatever the strict legal position in Portugal, information was being leaked by the Portuguese police to the Portuguese press, that's stage one, and having been leaked to the Portuguese press, the British press then picked up on that self-same information, that's stage two ? Is that an accurate description ?
GMC : I cannot tell you for certain that it was the Portuguese police who were leaking information, but for anyone who followed the headlines in July, August and September 2007, I think it would be a perfectly reasonable assumption to make that elements of the inquiry were speaking to the Portuguese police -- sorry, Portuguese press. I do not know whether they were speaking directly to the British media, but what we clearly saw were snippets of information which as far as I was concerned the British media could not tell whether it was true or not, which was then reported, often exaggerated and blown up into many tens, in fact hundreds of front page headlines.
RJ : : : The British press did not have the means of verifying the information, but your complaint is that the information was distorted and magnified; do I have it right?
GMC : I think I'm complaining on all of the grounds, that they didn't know the source, didn't know whether it was accurate, it was exaggerated and often downright untruthful and often I believe, on occasions, made up.

RJ : : : We're going to cover the detail of that in a moment, Dr McCann. Throughout the summer of 2007, the interest of the British press was retained in the story, wasn't it? They were constantly there in Praia da Luz; is that right?
GMC : Yes. It did surprise us. Obviously after the initial period, and I can understand that what we ended up doing by having an international campaign was unprecedented, but we did send a very clear signal, as the attention focused more and more on Kate and myself, that the focus should be on Madeleine and we fully expected, around mid-June, for the British media to leave. We decided we had to stay in Portugal to be close to Madeleine (probablement encore un lapsus) to be close to the investigation, and certainly didn't feel capable of leaving at that point, so it did surprise us that there was so much ongoing interest when there really wasn't very much happening. 

RJ : : In terms of the advice you were getting or not getting, I'm going to put to one side the issue of the PCC into a later sequence in your evidence, but you tell us in your witness statement that there were two resources available to you. Paragraph 21, first of all, someone from Bell Pottinger who gave you assistance. Tell us a little bit about that please and the value that person was able to provide to you.
GMC : Yes, so Alex Woolfall who works for Bell Pottinger was brought out really to deal with the media crisis management specialist on behalf of Mark Warner, and at that point he was leading the engagement with the media who were present in Praia da Luz, and he was very helpful. He just gave us some simple tips, which we've tried to stick to, and that was: if you interact, what's your objective, should be the question you ask yourself. And how is it going to help ?  And obviously our objective is to find Madeleine, and that's something that we have tried to apply when we interact with the media. Today is one of the exceptions, where it's not the primary purpose of our engagement.

RJ : : Thank you. And you also mentioned someone called Clarence Mitchell, who was seconded to the FCO as part of the media liaison in Praia da Luz.?
GMC : Yes.
RJ : : And you fairly say that person's help was invaluable. Is there anything you would wish to add in relation to the assistance that person gave you?
GMC : I think at times we've been criticised for having somebody to deal with the media, but the volume of requests was incredible, both nationally and internationally, and it was almost -- well, I don't know how Clarence managed it in May and early June 2007, but it was a full-time job just dealing with those requests and it's been very important. As I said, we had no prior media experience, but in terms of just shielding us from the inquiries which were constant.
KMC : Gave us a little bit of protection, really.
GMC : And obviously we were working very hard behind the scenes, and let us spend some time with our family, as well.

RJ : : In paragraph 24 of your statement, Dr McCann, you deal with the suggestion, well, here you are dealing with the press and then in parentheses, on your own terms, that almost allows the press open season (sans restrictions) to deal with you on their terms. Maybe I'm slightly over-exaggerating the point, but in your own words, please, what is your view about that suggestion?
GMC : Well, it has been argued on many occasions that by engaging then it was more or less open season, and I think it's crass and insensitive to suggest that by engaging with a view to trying to find your daughter, that the press can write whatever they want about you without punishment.

RJ : : The next section of your statement deals with accuracy of reporting and you point out that after a period of time, there was little new news to report.
GMC : Yes.
RJ : : It may be at that point that the agenda started to morph and in paragraph 27 you state "clearly it didn't take long before innuendo (insinuations) started to creep in". Are you able to elaborate on that, if you were to wish to?
GMC : Yeah, I mean I think there were two elements. The reporting quickly became highly speculative, and often stories -- for example, there must have been "McCann fury" on the front page of many newspapers over that summer that would quote an unnamed source or friends, and unless our phones were hacked, which I don't think they were, then these were made up because they were simply not true. So there was clearly pressure to produce a story. The reporters who were based in Praia da Luz, first thing they did each day was get the Portuguese press, get it translated, and decide what they were going to write about, and I don't think any of it was helpful. 

RJ : : The date you give for the shift of the emphasis of the media reporting is about June 2007, is it, but then you feel the mood may have been moving or turning a bit in the British press? Or perhaps a bit later than that?
GMC : Yeah, I mean obviously I think we've realised that if you're in the spotlight for anything, then not everything that's going to be written about you is either going to be sympathetic or supportive, so we quickly saw that what we thought may be a good thing to do would be criticised. Whether it would be our decision to go to Rome or not was criticised in certain quarters. Even at the time for us it was very important to us. So there was that element, and then there were more sinister elements were starting to creep into the reporting. Firstly, the first really bad thing was an article that was written in a Portuguese paper which was entitled, "Pact of silence", and it was starting to refer that there was some sort of sinister agreement between us and our friends to cover up what had happened, and I thought that was rather ludicrous, considering that we were all acting under judicial secrecy and couldn't speak about the details of the event. But that -- it was probably towards the end of June 2007, and slowly deteriorated through July, culminating in September 2007.

RJ : : The real spate of offensive and objectionable material, if I can be forgiven for using those epithets, starts in September 2007 and runs on to January 2008, and we'll be looking at those in a moment. In paragraph 32, you make the general point that UK press articles were often based on bits and pieces picked up from Portuguese articles, transmuted from supposition into fact; is that right?
GMC : Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the articles that springs to mind actually was a piece in a Portuguese newspaper where somebody was talking to the prosecutor and was asking what he thought had happened and there was a quote saying he didn't know whether Madeleine was alive or dead, and I think the following line was "probably dead", and that translated into the front page of the Daily Mirror with a photograph of Madeleine with a headline, "She's dead", which we saw at 11 o'clock at night, we were trying to go to bed. Obviously that was one of the most distressing headlines, it was presented as if it's factual, and it was just taken from that supposition, I don't know, probability. It's incredible.(5)

RJ : : One key event in this narrative is you becoming, if I pronounce it right, arguido, under Portuguese law, which occurred on 7 September 2007, and this is paragraph 34 of your witness statement. To be clear about it, and you'll correct me if I'm wrong because you know more about this than me, arguido does not mean "suspect", it means "person of interest"; is that correct?
GMC : That's what we were advised was the closest correlation or translation within UK law at the time, and I think it is probably important to emphasise that as a witness in Portugal at that time you were not entitled to any legal representation. (6)  (début vidéo 2) So if the police wanted to ask any question, which your answer may give incriminating evidence, then they must declare you arguido, then you were entitled to have a lawyer there. And in many ways you could argue that all parents of a missing child, certainly those who would have been the last to see them, could have to answer questions like that. So being labelled arguido was not necessarily such a bad thing.
However, I will acknowledge that there were leaks by elements of the investigation team which clearly were trying to portray that there was strong evidence that Madeleine was dead and that we were involved. (fin vidéo 1)



vidéo 2

RJ : : Maybe there are two points here. The first point is the obvious one that needs to be stated. There isn't an equivalent concept of arguido in English law?
GMC : No. And I think the aspect on that is we've never been arrested, we've never been charged with anything. We've never stood trial.
RJ : : Do you happen to know whether under Portuguese law they have a category of suspect?
GMC : I think it is loosely used, but you could have multiple arguidos within any investigation, and at that time, the title "arguido" stayed with those involved until the file was closed.
RJ : : Do you think, rightly or wrongly, the British press somehow interpreted "arguido" as equivalent to "suspect", which carried with it, therefore, its own connotations?
GMC :Yes. I mean clearly the word was used that way almost exclusively.

RJ : : At this point we are in the late summer, obviously, or early autumn of 2007. If I can move you forward to paragraph 39 of your statement. You're making the point that the story in terms of objective fact is beginning to run dry and reporters now are thrashing around for something new.
GMC : I think it's probably worth just clarifying that within ten days of being made arguidos, the prosecutor made an announcement that all lines of inquiry, including the abduction of Madeleine, were open and no charges were being brought at that time, but that didn't stop the continued reporting of inaccurate, untruthful and incredibly damaging reports.

RJ : From the perspective of the newspaper and the sort of economic calculation they may wish to conduct – you deal with this in paragraph 39 -- but you have evidence hat this story was, at least in the opinion of those running one of the newspapers, boosting their circulation figures. Is that right? 
GMC : I think that's clear, and Peter Ellis testified that to the Parliamentary Select Committee.

RJ : The specific tone of the articles changes in September 2007. We're going to look at that particularly in a moment. In paragraph 40, however, you refer to one piece in the Evening Standard, which is I think the very day you were declared arguidos, 7 September 2007: "Police believe mother killed Maddie."
GMC : Mm.
RJ : Was that the first time that point was made so baldly and so falsely?
GMC : There's been so many headlines of similar gravity that I can't tell you honestly whether that was the first time.
KMC : I think that may have been the first time it was in a headline. In August 2007, we were told by a BBC journalist, in fact he stopped us and said, "Have you seen what's getting reported? They're saying there's blood in the apartment, they're saying that you were involved. Madeleine's been killed and you were involved." So actually it was stirring up in August 2007, but I think the headlines like that became very prominent once we were made arguidos. 
RJ : Then you refer to two articles in the Daily Mail which, unless I've missed something, we don't have available today, but the first one published in September 2007 you summarise in paragraph 41, the subheading: "I pray the Portuguese police are careering down the wrong track, but from the start a terrible nagging doubt has refused to leave me."
That, for what it's worth, was corrected by another piece as late as 4 May 2009, which you deal with in paragraph 43; is that correct?
GMC : It is. I should probably clarify that paragraph 41 refers to Kate rather than myself, but yes, that's correct.

RJ : In paragraph 46, you deal with a theme which you're not the first to address, namely presence of photographers. We know, of course, that you came home at a certain point, I can't remember precisely when it was, but once you're home, you then have photographers outside your home. Can you just tell us a little bit about that, and in particular the impact that had on you?
GMC : I think the first thing probably to say is it started when we said we were leaving Portugal, which we'd already told the police we were going to leave before we were declared arguidos, and the journey to the airport was one of the most terrifying experiences, I think, anyone could have, where cars were coming across, cutting in front, cameras, people hanging out of windows, motorbike riders. It was just dangerous, frankly dangerous. When we got back to our home in Rothley, again there were tens of journalists -- we live in a cul de sac, at the end of it -- camped outside our house, cameras, helicopter crews following us. We were hemmed in the house for a couple of days before the police moved them to the end of our drive.RJ :Then you tell us that photographers were still banging on car windows, even with one or more children in the car; is that right?
KMC : And they stayed there until December 2007. That was only after we had help to get them removed, but they were there every day, and they'd wait for Gerry to go and they knew I'd have to come out of the house at some point with the children. It would be the same photograph every day, we'd be in the car, myself and two children, the photographers would either spring out from behind a hedge to get a startled look that they could attach "fragile", "furious", whatever they wanted to put with the headline, but there were several occasions where they would bang on the windows, sometimes with the camera lenses, and Amelie said to me several times, "Mummy, I'm scared."
GMC : I'd like to point out the twins at that time were still only two and a half years old. Very frightened.

RJ : You deal with two further matters, perhaps less serious than this, because what you've told us of course is a plain breach of the code, that we may come to in due course. There was a photograph of you, Dr Gerald McCann, on the golf course, which obviously is a private place, and then the distortion of photographs of you, Dr Kate McCann, to present, no doubt, a certain image. Often coupled with the adjectives "frail" or "fragile", which you've told us about. In terms of the effect on you, you described it, and of course it will be obvious to us, but looking more broadly, the effect on the continuing investigation, which after all is your primary focus then, as it is now, are you able to quantify that for us and describe it?
GMC : Well, I think from -- reputational aspects aside, the distress that was caused to us was the clear message that was going out nationally throughout Europe and internationally was that there was very strong evidence hat our daughter was dead and that we were somehow implicated in her disappearance, and we knew that if people believed that, then there couldn't be a meaningful search, and it was incredible. And any aspects of campaigning for a search with what happened to us and how it was portrayed in the media meant we were completely hamstrung (paralysés) in our ability to counter anything.
KMC : These were desperate times. You know, we were having to try and find our daughter ourselves. We needed all the help we could get, and we were faced with -- I know we'll come on to headlines, but "Corpse in the car"; I don't know how many times I read "Body fluids in the car". And it gets repeated that often, it becomes fact. There were no body fluids. We desperately wanted to shout out "It's not true, it's not true", but when it's your voice against the powerful media, it just doesn't have a weight. We were desperately shouting out internally "Please stop, what are you doing? We're trying to find our daughter and you're stopping our chances of finding her".
GMC : The point being, which I alluded to earlier, is that we were told in no uncertain terms that if we disclosed anything publicly which we knew to be in the judicial file, ie the results which had been shown to us. In fact, I think Kingsley Napley then pressurised Leicestershire police to write to the broadcasters and editors, and there's a letter from Matt Baggott, who was Chief Constable at that time, urging restraint and saying there was very inaccurate reporting.

We organised another round of meetings with Angus and Clarence, who then came back to work for us later on in September 2007, and that was followed up with another letter from the Chief Constable, I think on 17 October, if my memory --
LJL : 8 October.
GMC : Thank you. Failed.
RJ : 17 September, 8 October.
GMC : And obviously these things were done because the coverage was continuing such a bad way.

RJ : You identify the worst offenders, and we'll be looking at this quite carefully in a moment, amongst the Express Group newspapers, which included the Daily Star and the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Sunday Star?
GMC : Yes.
RJ : Did there come a point when warnings were given by your lawyers in the context of possible claims in defamation, by which I mean libel?
GMC : Yes. Kingsley Napley had written to the Express Group twice, explicitly, telling them that they were on notice, that we felt that the content of the articles was libellous, and we reserved the right to take action. Then I think what you see in paragraph 66 is a series of articles produced in January 2008 over a very short period of time, rehashing largely, but with other things come on, and I think it's important to emphasise we had met with Adam Tudor from Carter Ruck, who is as you know a libel specialist, and we had talked about legal action, which for us was always a last resort. We felt we had a more important battle to fight, which was finding our daughter, but we felt that it was our only course of action open to us at that point that would stop it.
KMC : And I think it's important to emphasise, again, some of the headlines that we faced. They were incessant. And they're not just slight inaccuracies. I mean, "It was her blood in parents' hire car". Totally untrue. 

RJ : Let's look at some of these articles, please. What I'm going to do is invite your attention first of all to GM2, which is a schedule you have prepared, with directly underneath it articles in the Daily Express, specifically. These run from 27 September 2007 to 22 January 2008. The ones you have specifically identified in paragraph 66 of your witness statement we can look at, but first of all, we can get the flavour of some of the headlines. 9 October 2007: "DNA puts parents in frame. British experts insist their tests are valid". 17 October 2007: "Parents' hire car hid a corpse. It was under carpet in boot, say police". Then "Priest: I was deceived". I haven't counted them up, but there are probably about 25 similar pieces running over a three or four-month period. Let's just look at some of them, if you don't mind.
GMC : Sure.
RJ : : We're in GM2, and the first of them --
LJL : We're not intending to put these on the website, are we, Mr Jay?
RJ : : Well, if there's a problem, we won't. I didn't understand there to be, but at the moment these are not on any website, no.
LJL : No. I just don't particularly want to give greater prominence or currency to articles that have caused enough distress in their time.
RJ : : Yes.
LJL : By all means refer to them and that can be part of the evidence, but it seems to me that's sufficient. Are you content with that approach?
GMC : Obviously the articles themselves have been pulled, but they are -- their contents have been widely disseminated through many blogs, as you're probably well aware, but we have no issue with discussing the content.
RJ : : Yes. I think the best thing to do, unless someone says I should adopt a different course, is I'm not going to ask for the articles to be put on the screen, but I'm just going to refer to the articles and we can bring out maybe one or two points. If at any point you tell me no, you don't want me to proceed down a particular road --
GMC : Sure.

RJ : : of course I won't. So I'll do this as quickly and as lightly as I can, Dr McCann, just to give the flavour. If you look, please, at the internal numbering, it's page 10 of GM2.
GMC : Yes.
RJ : : There's an article: "It was her blood in parents' hire car, new DNA tests report". The overall flavour or thrust of this article was that there was DNA evidence which linked your daughter with a hire car. What do you say about that? I'm sure you have a lot to say about it, but in a nutshell --
GMC : The first thing to say is it's simply untrue. Madeleine's DNA was not uncovered from the hire car, that's the first thing. (7)
RJ : : Yes.
GMC : The inference from this is, and I think the public who think that DNA is a very strong evidence in cases would take this to mean, absolutely, that Madeleine was in the hire car that we hired more than three weeks after she disappeared. It's incredible.
LJL : Interestingly enough, what they're doing is reporting a newspaper as saying that, so that's how it comes out. A Portuguese newspaper.
GMC : Well, often you'll find that there would be something down in the article. They weren't published in the prominence that they were in these papers. And no way of checking the source, which is a recurring theme. These are all sources, unnamed sources in the original articles. 

RJ : If we move, please, to page 15, the headline reads: "Madeleine: McCanns are main suspects, say police." Was that correct?
GMC : Well, the police weren't speaking to the media under judicial law, and we haven't had any of the police identified who have given these statements. I would like to know who they are. Perhaps they could face contempt of court proceedings.
RJ : : Okay. Page 17, this is another headline you refer to in paragraph 66: "Priest 'bans' Madeleine. He takes down posters at Praia da Luz" and then I think this should be open inverted commas "wipes her from its memory." What's the innuendo there? It's pretty obvious.
GMC : It is, and I think the key thing here is obviously that the Church community in Praia da Luz were incredibly supportive to Kate and I spiritually.
KMC : And still are.
GMC : And at that point they continued to hold a weekly vigil for Madeleine, so obviously saying that the town and the Portuguese locals had turned their back on us was a clear innuendo from this article, which again was not true.

RJ : : In GM3, if we can quickly navigate our way through that, this is another schedule of articles; this time, however, we're looking at the Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday. There's a similar number of articles, really. No, it's more. Maybe about 50 of them. What is similar is the broad dates, from 27 September 2007 to 22 January 2008. Two of the articles you specifically referred to in your evidence, we can just quickly alight on them. Look at page 117, please, Dr McCann. An article in the Daily Star on 26 November 2007: "Maddie 'sold' by hard-up McCanns." This is the article you do refer to, the selling into white slavery allegation. Probably you don't want to dignify that with a comment?
GMC : That's nothing short of disgusting.
KMC : I think this same journalist, if memory serves right, also said we stored her body in a freezer. I mean, we just ...
RJ : : The final one, I've read all of these, Dr McCann, last night. We could look at all of them. These are representative.
LJL : Just to make the comment, there's absolutely no source for that assertion in that article.
GMC : No.
RJ : : There's a generic reference to a bombshell new police theory, but completely non-attributed.
LJL : Yes. Sorry.
RJ : : Probably entirely made up. Page 132. In capitals: "She did die in hol [short for holiday probably] flat; blood traces [in capitals] are Maddie's, car fluids [again in capitals] are from corpse" and then "-- cops: body had been moved." And then there's a reference to a possible grilling by the British police, they have sensational new evidence. Are you going to dignify this with a comment or not? (8)
GMC : I mean, you can, I hope, understand why we felt we had to take proceedings from the severity and consistency of the allegations being made.
RJ : : Can we deal now with the proceedings? If you want me to go further through the schedule, through the articles, please let me know. I detect you probably don't. We have enough of a flavour; is that right, Dr McCann?
GMC : Mm.

RJ : : But what happened next, your solicitors have become involved, letters before action had been sent. To pick up the story at paragraph 68, you say that on 7 February your solicitors were contacted by the Express, and they proposed some sort of deal with you. Can you tell us about their proposal?
GMC : It was pretty much said because we were arguidos, they couldn't agree to our complaint, but they did suggest that we did an interview with OK magazine, which we found rather breath-taking.
RJ : : Right. It goes without saying that that offer was not accepted and matters proceeded. Paragraph 69, the Express by now had taken expert advice and they now indicated that their articles were defamatory; is that right?
GMC : Yes.

RJ : : Could you give us a sense of the timescale here? The first offer from the Express was 7 February, this was the Hello magazine offer, but when did the admission of wrongdoing, as it were, come in?
GMC : It did drag out a bit. I can't give you the exact dates. I do have it on file. But there was an acknowledgment that they might be prepared to make an apology and also consider damages. We wanted to make sure that those damages reflected the seriousness of what they had published and it was -- to be honest, the damages for us were a secondary consideration. It was more about getting a front page apology to send a clear message that we wouldn't tolerate these ongoing allegations in other newspapers either.
RJ : : The statement in open court was read out on 19 March 2008.
GMC : Mm.
RJ : : £550,000 was paid to Madeleine's Fund, and there was also an apology on the front page, is this right, both of the Express and of the Star? Or is it just the Express?
GMC : No, both.

LJL : Express Newspapers, and given that we've gone into it, it's probably sensible just to read that: "In addition to the allegations referred to above, the Daily Star published further articles under the headlines which sought to allege that Mr and Mrs McCann had sold their daughter in order to ease their financial burdens. A further article alleged that Mr and Mrs McCann were involved in swinging or wife swapping. As the defendant now acknowledges, all of these allegations were and remain entirely untrue. In particular, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death of their daughter, they were involved in any sort of cover-up and there was no basis for Express Newspapers to allege otherwise.
"Equally, the allegations that Mr and Mrs McCann may have sold Madeleine or were involved in swinging or wife swapping were entirely baseless. Naturally the repeated publication of these utterly false and defamatory allegations have caused untold distress to Mr and Mrs McCann. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a more serious allegation." That just provides some context.
GMC : Thank you.

RJ : What may be worthy of consideration though is the possible rapidity of change of stance. On the one hand, they were maintaining their articles, they get leading counsel's advice, then all of a sudden they say it's all entirely wrong and maybe it's worth a consideration how and why that volte face occurs.
LJL : Could you tell me this. They presumably published something as well. Where was it published?
GMC : The apologies?
LJL : Yes.
GMC : They were on the front page. We insisted. And we would have gone to court to get that.
LJL : Do we have that?
RJ : I don't think we have the text of the apologies on the front page, do we?
GMC : Not the full apology.
LJL : All right.
RJ : We can look at those, if necessary. You deal with the issue of exemplary damages, punitive damages in paragraph 71.
GMC : Yes.

RJ : But you decided in the end not to pursue those; is that correct?
GMC : It is. We were told that we had, after taking counsel's advice, that we would be very likely to be successful in such a claim, and my understanding of that was that there would be a very strong argument that Express Group Newspapers knew that the allegations, or many of them, were unfounded or certainly couldn't prove any of them, and despite the steps we had taken from September 2007 through to issuing proceedings made it very clear there was no evidence to back it up, that we could only assume they were acting for profit.
RJ : After these matters -- we're now in March of 2008 -- the answer to the question may be fairly obvious, but were there any further objectionable articles in the British press?
GMC : There was certainly a dramatic sea change within Express Group Newspapers and I think largely the coverage has been much more responsible and balanced. It doesn't mean that there hasn't been articles published which are untruthful. They may not be libellous or defamatory, some of them, and we've had to have certain articles pulled, but there was a clear change. With hindsight, I wish we'd taken action earlier.

RJ : In paragraph 76, you deal with related litigation involving your friends, I believe, who were with you on holiday. Can I take this point quite shortly, that they oo recovered damages?
GMC : Yes.
RJ : I think in total the amount was £375,000.
GMC : That's correct.
RJ : But so it's clear, I've been asked to draw this from you, that the defendant to the proceedings brought by your friends was again Express Newspapers?
GMC : That's correcting.
RJ : Or their publishers. The Sun reported it, although the Sun themselves, to be absolutely clear, were not the defendants, they hadn't defamed you. They reported those settlements, I'm told, at page 25, and there were similar reports in the Daily Mirror. But so there's no doubt about it, the Sun and the Daily Mirror are not the defamers. They are reporting what's happened in relation to proceedings brought by other organs of the press. 

RJ : Paragraphs 78 to 80, Associated Newspapers, please. You made a further libel complaint in July of 2008 in relation to coverage in the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. Can we be clear which articles these relate to, since you don't specify it in paragraph 79? Do I have this right? Are you referring back to the article at paragraph 40 of your witness statement, Dr McCann?
GMC : There had been a large number of articles, similar tone to the ones that we had complained of previously, so it was more again about DNA, blood, suspects, Madeleine being killed, et cetera, rather than anything else. Paragraph 40 --
 RJ : You identify one article in the Evening Standard published on 7 September 2007.
GMC : Sure. There were many similar articles like that, particularly in the Evening Standard at that time.
KMC : The corpse in the car was the Evening Standard, I think.
RJ :  In a nutshell, what was the outcome of these libel proceedings?
GMC : We did settle. They paid damages and there was an apology published in the Evening Standard. The Daily Mail did not publish an apology.

RJ : One point you make, these libel proceedings were brought with the benefit of conditional fee agreements; is that correct?
GMC : Yes. I think it's very important, given the scale of the task that faced us, and we were given -- we made our decisions after being fully informed of the pathway, and I think that's very important. It was a last resort. And at the time, given our circumstances, I do not believe we would have had the resource to go down that path if it wasn't for a CFA being in place.
LJL : This is going to be your choice. It won't happen to anybody else, but it will be your choice. If you'd like a break for five minutes, we'll have it. If you prefer to carry on, we'll carry on. A. I'm happy to carry on.
LJL : Right. I ought to say, I've confirmed it with the shorthand writer. (fin vidéo 2)

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