UK

Kate and Gerry McCann criticise press after libel payout

Kate and Gerry McCann Image copyright PA
Image caption Kate and Gerry McCann said the allegations were "grotesque and utterly false"

The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have said press regulation is still not working, after receiving £55,000 in libel damages from the Sunday Times.

The payout came over claims they had withheld details about their daughter's disappearance from the authorities.

Kate and Gerry McCann said the paper did not provide them with a proper opportunity to comment and chose not to publish key parts of their response.

The Sunday Times said it had agreed a settlement with Mr and Mrs McCann.

Continued failure

The McCanns said the allegations were "grotesque and utterly false", and in effect suggested they had deliberately hindered the search for their daughter Madeleine, who went missing in Portugal in 2007.

Last December the paper printed an apology which the McCanns said was on an inside page and inadequate.

After instructing lawyers to sue for damages they received the payout which will be donated to two charities for missing people and sick children.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr McCann said the story "should never have been published", saying his family had given the Sunday Times a statement to that effect when the allegations were first put to them.

Image copyright PA

"This damaged us, it damaged the reputation of the [Madeleine's Fund] fund and it quite potentially can damage the search for Madeleine," he added.

He said it showed the continued failure of the press - which Mr McCann said was causing damage to ordinary people on a "daily basis" - to act responsibly.

"It has been a significant period since the Leveson Inquiry finished and I don't see any change in culture," Mr McCann added.

'Industry poodle'

The allegations in the Sunday Times were made at a time when the paper was arguing there was no need for the independent regulation proposed by the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

The McCanns described the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which started its work last month as the successor to the Press Complaints Commission, as the "latest industry poodle".

It is not the first time Mr and Mrs McCann have taken legal action against the press.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kate and Gerry McCann gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in November 2011

In 2008, they accepted £550,000 libel damages and front-page apologies from Express Newspapers over allegations they were responsible for Madeleine's death.

The McCanns have been prominent in the Hacked Off group which campaigns for press accountability following the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Private diary

At the Leveson Inquiry, the McCanns were critical of their treatment by the press, saying they were left distraught by suggestions they were responsible for Madeleine's death.

Mr McCann told the inquiry many of the stories were untruthful, sinister or, he believed, made up.

Mrs McCann said seeing her private diary published in the News of the World made her feel "totally violated".

Lord Leveson's report recommended an independent, self-regulatory press watchdog backed by legislation.

The three main Westminster parties agreed a Royal Charter that established a panel to independently verify a new regulator, although Ipso has not sought recognition from this.

A rival independent self-regulator, Impress, has been set up by a group of high-profile campaigners with the aim of becoming compliant with Leveson's requirements.

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