Libel Case Wins Front-Page Apologies for McCanns

March 19, 2008 05:18 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Two U.K. daily newspapers printed front-page apologies to the parents of missing child Madeline McCann after journalists suggested that the couple deceived the police.

30-Second Summary

Claiming that the newspapers ran more than a hundred defamatory reports, the parents filed suit against The Daily Express and The Daily Star, as well as their Sunday versions.

Four-year-old Madeline disappeared in May last year when the family was vacationing in Praia da Luz, Portugal. After intense media coverage, the papers involved began to imply that her parents had covered up the true nature of their daughter’s death.

The newspapers will cover all legal costs for the McCanns and were made to read apologies in court.

The stories examined in the libel suit appeared after the McCanns criticized the efforts of the Portuguese police and mother Kate McCann was questioned by local law enforcement, classifying her as an “arguido,” or suspect.

While both papers called their actions “unprecedented,” this is not the first time a newspaper has issued a front-page apology following charges of libel.

The U.K.’s unique libel laws tend to favor those who feel they have been misrepresented in the press as they place the burden of proof on the defendant. The accused must also prove that the comments under analysis were not made maliciously.

In the United States, the roles are reversed: the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff.

However, a 2006 Ruling by the Law Lords, the U.K. equivalent of the Supreme Court sought to reinterpret libel laws, allowing a defense of “public interest” in a case against the European Wall Street Journal.

Recent history has seen a number of high-profile cases in which public figures demanded retractions. Real estate developer Steve Bing and singer Elton John are just two cases that have resulted in British newspapers making front-page apologies.

Headline Links: Newspaper publisher issue apologies

Opinion & Analysis: What can be learned from the case

Background: Madeleine’s disappearance

Related Topics: Other U.K. libel cases

Reference: British libel law


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