Monday, September 16, 2013

McCanns’ €1 million libel action

 The unanswered question of what happened to Madeleine is at the root of the McCanns vs Amaral libel hearing now underway in Lisbon.
With the hearing in recess for a few days, it is perhaps a good moment to reflect dispassionately on just how polarised public opinion is over the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance more than six years ago.
The question is not for the libel hearing to consider, of course, but this legal action once again highlights the fact that public opinion is broadly split into two camps.
The McCanns have always insisted their daughter was abducted. During the original investigation, the lead detective Gonçalo Amaral became convinced she died in the holiday apartment, that her body was secretly disposed of, and that the McCanns lied about it.
In the absence of proof beyond all reasonable doubt, both theories remain just that – theories. Broadly speaking, the mainstream media in the UK seem to have accepted abduction and are sympathetic to the McCanns. Internet forums dedicated to the subject are generally of the opposite view and are awash with criticisms of the McCanns. Defamation laws restrain the mainstream media. Not so the Internet.
Central to the present libel action is the book The Truth of the Lie in which Amaral sets out his considered conclusions. The McCanns argue that not only does the book defame them personally, but by influencing public opinion it has also hindered efforts to find Madeleine.
What is being contested is not only Amaral’s views, but his right to express them publicly. It is a freedom of expression issue.
It was inevitable that the libel case would further rally supporters on either side. Many strongly believe the McCanns have been shamefully treated. Many others equally strongly believe Amaral has similarly suffered.
“That man has caused so much upset and anger because of how he has treated my beautiful Madeleine and the search to find her,” Kate McCann has written.
“I’ve been left with no chances, no way of paying my debts and liens on my property. I’ve had to move away from my family in order to protect them.” Amaral told a reporter who interviewed him about the pending libel action.
The courts have been ponderous. The controversial book published in July 2008, and a video of the same title made from a documentary shown on Portuguese TV, were both banned by a civil court in Lisbon in September 2009. The ban was confirmed in January 2010. A higher court overturned the ban in October of 2010 and this was upheld in March 2011.
The current civil case against Amaral, his publishers and the video makers had been much delayed. It was last postponed in January this year to give both parties time to reach an extrajudicial agreement. This did not happen. The case finally went ahead on Thursday and Friday with the McCanns demanding more than €1 million in damages.
The main testimony so far has been that of a psychologist specialising in dealing with children who have suffered trauma. He told the hearing that Madeleine’s twin siblings could be in danger of developing mental problems if they were to discover the claims made in Amaral’s book.
The seven-day hearing is being strung out over several weeks. It is scheduled to continue next Thursday and Friday (19th and 20th), then again on October 2nd and 8th, concluding on the 5th of November.
The strength of public opinion is such that many have already made up their minds, but the court could go either way.
Mrs McCann told reporters on arrival in Lisbon: “I’m here to stop the damage that has been caused and is still being caused, both directly and indirectly, to the search for our daughter.”
The book has been out for five years. It is said to have sold 200,000 copies, been translated into nine languages and its contents are available on the Internet.   
Meanwhile, more than six years after she disappeared, there is still no hint of a definative answer to the question, what happened to Madeleine?


Natasha said...

This is an excellent summary of the state of play so far, and yes, the issue is all about freedom of expression. It should not centre on anything but the right we all have to hold our own opinions, and as such, it is mind-boggling that this case has come to court at all. After all, Metodo 3 (the first investigators hired by the McCanns) declared in 2007 that Madeleine would be home for Christmas. No one sued them when that didn't happen...
"The Truth of the Lie" is just one of myriad inconvenient theories out in the public domain. It seems extraordinarily harsh to be hounding its author when, as he rightly says, no amount of litigation will bring Madeleine back. The central issue now is not to lose the right to freedom of expression as well.

Anonymous said...

"In the absence of proof beyond all reasonable doubt, both theories remain just that – theories."

Yes, that's right, but one has more weight than the other...

The McCann's abduction theory has no forensic evidence to support it, only a very doubtful report of a sighting from one of their holiday pals, Jane Tanner.
Mr. Amaral's theory (and the portuguese investigation, plus the PJ final report and the public prosecutor's archival
dispatch) is based on the work of the british dogs, Eddie and Keela, which signaled cadaver odour, the presence of a dead body and of bodily fluids, in the apartment, but also in the much later hired car, on Kate McCann's clothes, on Cuddle Cat. It was established that NO deaths had happened in the apartment, or in the hired car, but a child vanished from the apartment and the car was used by the child's parents...2+2=4, or not...?

Analysis of DNA from the samples collected in the apartment and car showed 15 alleles matched Madeleine...FSS later paddled back and made a big mess of it, including destroying the samples (not only fluids, but also hairs) thus making it impossible to do tests elsewhere.

AnneGuedes said...

Can the McCanns hope that winning this trial will convince the twins that Gonçalo Amaral is nothing but a big bad wolf and that everything was done to find their sister ? Will hundreds of thousand of euros help with doubts ?
For how long will they succeed in keeping the twins far from TV, newspapers and Internet ? And prevent that school friend who, out of rage, breaks his promise and screams "your sister is dead" ?

Anonymous said...

And the book to " children" where K8 write about the very private body of her daughter?

And the menaces to many, here in Portugal?

Not forget that UK have done the persistent obstruction about the Portuguese Investigation.
Only harassing and defaming my Country!

Similar suffering?

The Goncalo Amaral dog was killed.
Maddie ..... a Child

Anonymous said...

Under European law the right to self expression is NOT absolute, and neither is it in Portugal. This is something Mr Bennett recently had to be reminded of, again, and a very good thing too.
And Anna while you appear to happily anticipate the twins discovering the foul allegations of GA against their parents, this is actually part of the McCanns case.
As you will no doubt by now have discovered.

Natasha said...

Why is it that people who seem to be so "sure" of themselves invariably sign off as "anonymous"? It is one of the many unpleasant aspects of this mystery. People who bang drums should have the sense of integrity to at least say who they are... Otherwise their comments just look cowardly and smack of bias

dewi lennard said...

But the genie is out of the bottle! Not only from the book of Amaral, but in many other places. Are you implying that some judicial action could prevent all the arguments, and the evidence of the cadaver dog etc etc, from ever entering the consciousness of the McCann twins? Of course it can't. And when they are mature, they should know the truth. Or if that is impossible due to the massive cover-up, at least they should know all the arguments.