21 Feb 2013
Suspended prison sentence for Madeleine McCann contempt
McCann critic found guilty of breaching court undertaking
A judge has imposed a suspended prison sentence for deliberate breaches of an undertaking given to the court on the settlement of a libel claim by Gerry and Kate McCann.
In a judgment handed down on 21 February 2013, Mr Justice Tugendhat found that Tony Bennett, a former social worker and solicitor, had on 13 separate occasions been in breach of undertakings he gave to the court in November 2009. Mr Bennett had given the undertakings by way of settlement of a libel complaint by Gerry and Kate McCann in respect of allegations concerning the disappearance of their daughter, Madeleine. Mr Bennett had undertaken not to repeat allegations that the McCanns were guilty or to be suspected of causing the death of their daughter, Madeleine, disposing of her body and lying in order to cover up what they had done.
The Judge also made findings that Mr Bennett had intended what he wrote to be taken seriously, that he had deliberately flouted his undertakings and that the apology he had made from the witness box was insincere.
Sentencing Mr Bennett to 3 months’ custody suspended for one year, the Judge said that “it is essential for the rule of law that injunctions and undertakings are obeyed and that it cannot be an answer that the person who gave the undertaking can ignore it with impunity while it is in force”.
He noted that the McCanns had made clear to the court that their objective in bringing the committal application had not been to Mr Bennett punished, but to put a stop to the repeated conduct which he had undertaken to the court that he would not repeat.