Dominic Heale A man who repeatedly published allegations linking Madeleine McCann’s parents, from Rothley in Leicestershire, with her disappearance has been given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for a year. Tony Bennett from Essex was found to be in contempt of court for breaching an undertaking not to publish the claims.
Anne Davies Mr. Bennett faces bankruptcy after being told to pay costs running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Our chief news reporter Quentin Rayner was at the High Court in London.
Quentin Rayner Sixty five-year-old Tony Bennett from Essex arrived at the High Court knowing he faced potential financial ruin. In 2008 he founded the Madeleine Foundation pledged it claims to finding out what really happened to Madeleine McCann. In November 2009 he gave an undertaking to the court that he’d no longer publish allegations objected to by Kate and Gerry McCann. But today he was found in contempt of court for at least 13 breaches. These included the sale of a book and publishing letters to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary on the Internet.
Quentin Rayner The Judge told Bennett he’d deliberately flouted the undertaking not to publish. He told him his conduct was so serious only custody would do. He was given a three-month sentence suspended for a year. But the Judge accepted that Bennett’s apology was now sincere.
Tony Bennett I’m sorry for the distress I’ve caused to them. Ermm, I realised that its, erm, caused them stress. Ermm, and I hope that the way forward I’ve suggested to, erm, their solicitors will result in, erm, both of us drawing a line under the, er, situation.
Quentin Rayner Bennett faces costs of more than three hundred thousand pounds and potential bankruptcy. I have to ask do you regret it? Was it worth it?
Tony Bennett Probably not. Er, er, all that I’ve said in court today is ??correct?? (not clear). I do not wish to erm, to do anything further. I’ve said, given my opinion. I’ve given my reasons. I’ve given some facts. That’s it. I can, I can do no more than that. When he said that I was being sentenced to three months in jail I thought that he meant it and I’d prepared myself mentally for that. Ermm, obviously I’m relieved that erm, he’s not erm, put me in jail straight away.
Quentin Rayner Tony Bennett says the case may well have also cost him his marriage. He’s pledged never to speak publicly again about the McCanns. Quentin Rayner, BBC East Midlands Today at the High Court in London.
Anne Davies Well a statement from Clarence Mitchell the McCann family spokesman says:
“Mr. Bennett has pursued an incessant campaign against them, repeatedly making false accusations and ignoring the fact that the Portuguese authorities confirmed there was simply no evidence to implicate them in the disappearance of their daughter, Madeleine.
Kate and Gerry McCann did not bring the action to punish Mr. Bennett or to send him to prison but simply to get him to stop.”
Bennett talking to BBC Journalist outside Court on the 21st February 2013:
I do not wish to erm, to do anything further
Bennett commenting on Facebook 22nd February 2013
Bennett commentating on Twitter 26th February 2013, 5 days later.
Does anybody believe he will leave the McCann family alone?… because I don’t.
You see it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that if he was truly planning on giving up on this case, he wouldn’t bother proceeding with his application to lift his stay.
Tony Bennett tweets about his post on Haverns Forum
Tony Bennett Today at 6:35 am on Jill Haverns forum (screenshot)
The documents above were a DRAFT order, sent to me on Friday.
There have been three minor amendments to the final Committal Order.
I pointed out to Jacob Dean, Counsel for the McCanns, that in the case of items 3, 7 and 13, these were conversations to which I contributed, rather than original posts of mine starting a new thread.
He agreed – and sent me this reply:
“Dear Mr Bennett,
I am happy to agree your suggested changes to items 3, 7 and 13, as it appears on those occasions you were posting in a thread created by another…”
If a contemnor receives an actual prison sentence, rather than a suspended sentence, he is delivered directly from the Court into Pentonville Prison.
The Order for Directions sets out precisely what will happen next.
There will be a one day hearing, probably in May, when the Court will consider whether to lift the ‘stay’ (= suspension) on the Libel Claim brought to the Court by the McCanns on 25 November 2009. On that day, the McCanns’ claim against me for damages not to exceed £50,000 was issued, but then immediately suspended by Master Leslie, when he was shown a letter sent by me to Carter-Ruck a few days earlier in which I consented to giving 16 undertakings as to future conduct.
The purpose of this next hearing is (as I understand it) is to see if I have a prima facie (= arguable) case for the three undertakings that I was found to have breached to be revoked.
This will mean setting out in open court, and in detail, the evidence which leads so many to doubt that Madeleine McCann was abducted. I’ll also be making much more detailed references to the scale of doubt about the abduction claim and the practical impossibility of the McCanns being able to restrain this level of dissent.
This latter matter was essentially confirmed by Dr Kate McCann in her book: ‘madeleine’, on page 290, where she refers to “the widespread defamatory material circulating on the internet”, adding that: “…it has proved almost impossible to get this stuff removed from some of them, particularly those hosted in the U.S.A…You could spend your whole life doing nothing but trying to shut down crank websites with little prospect of success”.
The McCanns say that my application has no realistic prospect of success and they oppose it vigorously.
He just can’t help himself can he? He was told he couldn’t comment on the case and yet he goes a head blindly… Could this be a case of ‘Pentonville here he comes’?
Keep checking back folks I am sure there will be a stream of updates, as it seems this man is hell bent on continuing in his agenda to cause as much harm and distress to the McCann family as possible.