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)
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.
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?
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?
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?
DS : That's Madeleine. What about you both being in the public eye? Is that helpful?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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 ?
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?
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.
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.?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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."
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?
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?
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 --
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?
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.
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.
RJ : If we move, please, to page 15, the headline reads: "Madeleine: McCanns are main suspects, say police." Was that correct?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
RJ : But you decided in the end not to pursue those; is that correct?
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?
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?
RJ : One point you make, these libel proceedings were brought with the benefit of conditional fee agreements; is that correct?
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