The High Court has given retired solicitor Tony Bennett a suspended jail sentence after he published claims that missing child Madeline McCann’s parents caused their daughter’s disapperance.
Mr Justice Tugendhat
Finding the former lawyer guilty of contempt of court, Mr Justice Tugendhat said that Bennett had played “cat and mouse” with the couple by only complying “some of the time” with the undertakings of a previous court order, which said he would not repeat allegations about the couple.
According to the judgment Bennett was testing the parents with “false or disingenuous assurances and demands for explanations to which, as a member of the public with no responsibility for law enforcement, he was not entitled”.
“I’m sure that he intended to allege that the claimants are to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, and did in fact dispose of her body, lie about what happened and covered up what they had done,” ruled Mr Justice Tugendhat. “The words are too clear, and the repetitions too numerous, for any other interpretation to be put upon what he did.”
The claimants, Kate and Gerry McCann, instructed Carter-Ruck partner Adam Tudor and 5RB’s Adrienne Page QC and Jacob Dean for the case, while Bennett appeared in person.
An undated note on Bennett’s campaigning website, The Madeline Foundation, alleges that the 65-year-old was misled about his entitlement to Legal Aid. “The McCanns have hired the country’s most expensive libel lawyers, Carter-Ruck, to try to silence Tony, and by April had already clocked up well over £120,000 in costs,” the website claims.
Little information has been made public about Bennett’s legal career, although internet research suggests he had set up his own firm, Bennetts, after qualifiying as a solicitor in the 1990s.