Former solicitor found in contempt of court over McCann claims
Former solicitor Tony Bennett has been found in contempt of court for flagrantly breaching undertakings he had previously made to the court promising that he would not repeat allegations that Gerry and Kate McCann were guilty of, or suspected of, having caused the death of their daughter Madeline and had then disposed of her body and lied about what had happened.
Mr Bennett had written extensively about the McCanns and the disappearance of Madeline in 2007. In 2009 Bennett alleged that they had covered up the death of their daughter. This prompted the McCanns to issue a claim in the High Court for libel. The claim was stayed after Bennett gave a number of undertakings to the court to delete various allegations made on the internet, to destroy booklets containing allegations and to refrain from making similar allegations in the future. The undertakings were embodied in a court order endorsed by a penal notice.
At a hearing of an application for committal, the McCanns alleged 153 breaches of the undertakings and put forward 13 examples relating to the publication and sale of a booklet. Bennett did not deny responsibility for the publications or that they were intentional. He argued, inter alia, that his statements were honest comment and that he was protected by Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression). In finding the alleged breaches proved, Mr Justice Tugendhat noted that the Articles 6 and 10 arguments were of little relevance to Bennet's position. Bennett had agreed the undertakings and had made no application to vary them. Article 10 was not an absolute right. Equally, the McCanns had Article 6 rights.
The case was adjourned to be relisted for a date upon which the appropriate penalty would be determined.
A full copy of the judgment can be found below:-
Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.