12 August 2011

By post and email: ajebennett@btinternet,com

Private and Confidential

Mr Tony Bennett
66 Chippingfield


Dear Sir

Kate and Gerry McCann

As you are aware, we represent Kate and Gerry McCann.

We write to inform you that, given your flagrant and numerous breaches of the undertakings which you gave to the Court by way of a consent Order dated 25 November 2009 ("the order), our clients have been left with no alternative but to now instruct us to instigate contempt of court proceedings against you.

We enclose a further copy of the Order, with which you are already familiar, and which sets out the sanctions which are available to the Court if the Order is breached and a contempt of Court thereby committed.

As such, it is vital that you appreciate the gravity of the position in which you have placed yourself, and we must urge you to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Proceeding for contempt of court

We must begin by making clear that the decision to apply to the Court to commit you for contempt has not been taken lightly by our clients, As with your conduct which formed the subject of our clients' original complaint against you in August 2009, our clients have tried to turn a blind eye to the campaign which you have relentlessly pursued against them, on the basis that their overriding priority has always been the ongoing search for their daughter.

However, our clients have once again become increasingly concerned about the very serious damage which may be caused to the search for their daughter by your persistent attempts to promulgate the assertion that Madeleine died (or that it is to be suspected that she died) in their holiday apartment and that they conspired (or are to be suspected of having conspired) to pervert the course of justice by disposing of her body and lying about her death. Despite your attempts to suggest otherwise, such assertions are completely without foundation and there is no credible evidence to support them.

This is not, of course, the first time that we have written to you to point out that you are in contempt of Court; we refer in particular to our letters to you of 5 February, 15 July and 3 August 2010. While it is the case that you confirmed you would cease to publish rnaterial which formed the subject of those complaints, you have subsequently gone on to publish a large volume of very similar material on your own website and elsewhere.
Our clients have given you every opportunity to comply with the undertakings which you gave, and we have in the past gone to some lengths to explain to you why _ contrary to your purported position - publications you have made or procured have constituted both actionable libels and placed you in contempt of Court. However, despite our efforts to explain the position to you, and despite our clients giving you a number of opportunities to desist from this behavior it is clear that you have no intention whatsoever of complying with your undertakings, and therefore our clients have resolved now to seek your committal for contempt of Court.
We rust also make clear that while our clients reject as absurd the "theories" which you advance about Madeleine's disappearance, neither our clients nor we seek (and have never sought) to prevent you from raising those "concerns" with the appropriate authorities - whether it be the law enforcement agencies, elected representatives such as your Member of Parliament, the Home Secretary or even (as you have also done) the Prime Minister. Nothing in this letter should be interpreted as an attempt to fetter your rights in this regard.
However, what our clients do object to - and where your conduct is clearly indefensible - is your publication of false and defamatory allegations about them publicly, and in particular on your own website and on the websites of others, as well as through the publication and distribution of hard copy material such as the "60 reasons" leaflet and the leaflet concerning Goncalo Amaral.
Such conduct not only seriously and unjustifiably defames our clients, it can only serve to damage the search for Madeleine.
lt is for these reasons that our .clients were forced to take action leading to the court order of 25 November 2009 and in respect of which you are in contempt.

Breach of the undertaking which you gave
Given the gravity of the position and of your approach to this matter to date, we seek below to spell out the position clearly.
We refer you to the terms of the Order which enshrined the undertakings which you gave to the High Court' These undertakings include (at paragraph c and Schedule A) the undertaking:
"not to repeat allegations that the Claimants are guilty of, or are to be suspected of, causing the. death of their daughter Madeleine McCann; and/or disposing of her body; and/or lying about what happened and/or of seeking to cover up what they had done"
The consequences of giving the undertakings contained in the Order mean that the publication by you of any such further allegations constitutes a contempt of Court, as well as being actionable in libel.
We have advised our clients that on a number of occasions you have published allegations which clearly and flagrantly breach this undertaking.
You will recall from our correspondence in 2009 that one of our clients' principal complaints against you. concerned the publication by you of defamatory material on the website www,madeleinefoudation, You were at great pains to stress repeatedly that control of the ".org" website had effectively been seized by its webmaster, that the webmaster had refused your requests for the site to be *suspended and that you therefore were unable to secure the site's suspension.
Notwithstanding this, you subsequently went on to produce another "Madeleine Foundation" website, with a "" extension -namely - upon which you have published a large number of allegations about our clients suggest (and/or would have been understood by an ordinary reader to suggest) that they are suspected of causing the death of their daughter; and/or disposing of her body; and/or lying about what happened and/or seeking to cover up what they had done,
Merely by way of example, we refer to allegations published on your website which are contained in an "open letter to David Cameron" of 18 May 201 1, and which include the following:

"By contrast, a, great many people consider that there is more than adequate evidence that Madeleine McCann died in the McCann's holiday apartment and that her parents and others have covered up this fact, and to hold a hoax 'abduction' of Madeleine on the evening of 3 May 2007, Madeline having already died before that evening's events. That, as you will know, is the settled view of the former senior investigator in the case, Dr Goncalo Amaral, and most of! his investigation team, along with other senior figures in Portugal. Dr Amaral does not say how Madeleine died, as he does not-know, but in the absence of any other specific indications, he advances the view that she may have died as the result of an accident whitest her parents and friends were dining 11/2 minutes,walk away. Another view of what night have caused Madeleine's death is the possibility that she was over-sedated by the McCann's".
We do not wish to review in this letter all the evidence that suggests that Madeleine did die in the McCann's apartment, but clearly the alerts of two of the world's top sniffer dogs, trained by an internationally recognised British police dog handler, to no fewer than ten sites in the McCann's apartment, on their clothes, and in their hired car are significant, and remain so, even in the absence of the kind of corroborative forensic evidence that would lead to the dogs, alerts being admissible evidence in a court of law, There is also I very large amount of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the McCann's and their friends have not told the truth, consisting of a number of changes of story and significant contradictions between their statements that go well beyond the kind of minor inconsistencies that often occur when witness are supplying statements based on their recollections.
The 48 members of the Madeleine Foundation, our many supporters, and a huge number of others subscribe to the view that the balance of evidence points in the direction of Madeleine having died in the McCann's holiday apartment. lf that hypothesis is correct, then the McCann's motive for wanting a 'Review', which would now open up the many files that the Portuguese Police have up to now withheld would be clear not to find Madeleine, but rather to trawl the files for any other evidence there may be against them, so that they can defend themselves and deal with any such evidence.

(For the avoidance of any doubt, we must once again make clear that our clients do not challenge your entitlement to write in these terms to the Prime Minister, instead their complaint relates to the publication of the letter on your website and elsewhere).
It ls beyond doubt that readers of this letter would have understood it to allege that our clients (to adopt the wording of the Order) "are to be suspected of, causing the death of their daughter Madeleine McCann; and/or disposing of her body; and/or-lying about what happened and/or of seeking to cover up what they had done". As such, it is equally beyond doubt that you have breached the undertakings contained in the Order, thereby placing yourself in contempt of Court.
The letter to the Prime Minister is but one example of a large number of publications by you of material which constitutes a breach of our undertakings, not only on your own website but on other websites, and in hard copy. in this regard we refer to the enclosed schedule and bundles of material published by you since November 2009 (i.e..e. since you gave your undertakings) upon which our client will rely as evidence of the contempt of Court committed by you and which our clients now require you to remove in full from the internet and otherwise to refrain from further publishing. Due to the very large volume of materlal published by you generally, we must reserve our clients' rights to add to this schedule should any further offending publications be drawn to their attention,
Your response to complaints contained in our letter to Automsttic lnc of 3 June 2011
ln your letter to us of 8 June 2011 you have sought pre-emptively to "defend" your actions, by way of a letter to us which responded to a libel complaint made on our client:s' behalf to Automattic lnc, the lSP of the "McCann Exposure" website, and which appears to have then been passed to you. Our letter to Automattic included complaints about postings of yours, on the basis that these postings constituted both actionable libels and a breach of the undertakings which you gave to the Court.
As previously, the arguments you put forward range from being (at best) legally irrelevant to completely spurious and as such we have no intention of addressing them in any detail here.
However, we must make clear that your purported belief (as stated in your letter of 8 June 2011) that you have "so far as [you] are aware, avoided, in line with [your] Court undertaking, direct accusations" against our clients, is entirely misplaced.
Equally rnisplaced is your attempted reliance on statements made by our clients' spokesman Clarence Mitchell that Madeleine's disappearance rernains a "complete rnystery," or that the suggestion that Madeleine had been abducted was merely "an assumption" or a "hypothesis." For you to suggest, as you apparently do, that such statements somehow justify you publishing allegations such as those contaied in the material to which this letter refers is completely misconceived,
You heve also purported to suggest that you can evade liability under the law of libel and circumvent the terms of your undertakings to the Court by positing allegations as questions. That is singly not correct. A number of your
publications which raise such "questions" - including "163 Questions that the McCann's should answer in their forthcoming "very truthful" book'- would clearly be understood (and we have no doubt that you intended them to be understood) to mean that there are grounds to suspect our clients of having lied to the police about their daughters death.
Of course, in a large number of other instances - including the letter to David Cameron from which we quote above - you do not even put your allegations in question form but instead state as a fact that you believe that Madeleine died in the holiday apartment and that her parents conspired to cover up the death.
You should also be aware that neither the apparent rulings of the Portuguese Courts nor the fact that you claim to have issued an application in the European Court of Human Rights challenging UK libel laws (to which you refer in your letter to us of 8 June 2011) has any bearing whatsoever on our clients' claim against you.
Our clients' overriding purpose in bringing complaints against you has always been to prevent your dissemination of false and defamatory allegations about them which risk causing damage to the ongoing search for their daughter, in addition to unjustifiable darnage to their reputatione. For this reason, they did not (as they were clearly entitled to do) insist that you pay them libel damages after they complained to you in 2009, and were content to accept undertakings from you that you would desist from
the behaviour complained of, narnely the publication of allegations "that the claimants are guilty of, or are to be suspected of, causing the death of their daughter Madeleine McCann; and/or disposing of her body; and/or lying about what happened and/or seeking to cover up what they had done.
Despite our clients exercising such restraint, you have persisted with this course of conduct' even abler our clients had 'written to you on no fewer than three further occasions since you gave the undertakings in an attempt to secure your compliance.
As such' our clients..have concluded with considerable regret that there is no realistic prospect of you abiding by the undertakings which you gave unless you are committed for contempt of Court.

Accordingly, we hereby put you on notice that we will now be preparing an application to Court to commit you for contempt. When issuing this application we will also seek directions from the Court for you to serve evidence in-response and for a court hearing to be convened thereafter to consider the application.
As we note above, you have previously had a practice of removing or ammending specific publications following the receipt of a complaint from our clients, only then, after a short pause, to go on to publish the allegations which are the subject of the Court Order in another form or in another way. As such, while we would naturally urge you to remove the publications now complained of (as set out in the attached schedule, to the extent that these continue to be published), and to desist from publishing any similar material, we must make it clear that our clients have resolved that in any event it will be necessary to commence contempt of Court proceeding against you.
We would once again strongly urge you to obtain specialist legal advice as a matter of urgency.
Yours faithfulty
Encs: Order of 25 November 2009
Two bundres of publications in contempt of court (by hard copy onry)


No comments: