Sunday Express Faces PCC Investigation

21 August 2009 | Posted by  Leave a Comment
 Sunday Express 16th August 2009

The ‘Sunday Express’ is to be investigated by the Press Complaints Commission after Madeleine Foundation Chairman Debbie Butler was the subject of a front-page headline in that paper on Sunday 16 August, falsely describing her as ‘The McCanns’ Stalker’, writes Tony Bennett, former Solicitor and Madeleine Foundation Secretary.

The complaint was lodged on Wednesday 19 August. The Press Complaints Commission regulates the press in the United Kingdom and has the power, effectively, to discipline newspapers which do not report any issue both fairly and accurately. They have been described as relatively toothless, and Press Complaints Commissioners are of course mostly senior figures in the newspaper industry who are in effect voluntarily regulating themselves. But they do have the power to order newspapers to print retractions, corrections and apologies.

THE COMPLAINT

The complaint to the Press Complaints Commission was set out as follows:

From: Tony Bennett
To: Press Complaints Commission
Wednesday 19 August 2009

Dear Sir, I act for Miss Debbie Butler in the matter of her formal complaint to you about the contents of Sunday's front-page article: "The McCanns' Stalker". This is a complaint under the Press Complaints Commission code and a copy is being sent to Scott Langham at the Press Complaints Commission for immediate action.

A summary of Miss Butler's complaints is as follows: The 'Sunday Express', like all other newspapers, has a duty under the Press Complaints Code to be fair and accurate. Against those benchmarks, here are the complaints about the Sunday Express article that Miss Butler now makes.

For the record, her address is [withheld] :

1. Describing Debbie Butler as a 'stalker' in respect of one leaflet drop in Rothley and nothing else was neither fair nor accurate. Making it a front-page leaflet with a picture clearly exposes her to risk of unfair attack. What she has done is distribute a factual leaflet. There is absolutely no course of conduct by her in relation to the McCanns that could remotely be described as 'stalking'.

2. Describing '10 Reasons' as a 'hate leaflet' (one villager was quoted as saying the leaflet was 'drumming up hate' and the 'Sunday Express' described it as 'highly inflammatory') was grossly unfair and grossly inaccurate, especially as the 'Sunday Express' did not explain the contents of the leaflet

3. The 'Sunday Express' deliberately chose the worst photograph they could take of her to portray her as 'a hard cow', which she was not. That was manifestly unfair

4. Neither Debbie Butler nor anyone else in the Madeleine Foundation sent a leaflet to Brian and Janet Kennedy. We do not know where she lives. This was therefore inaccurate.

5. It was not a 'late-night' leaflet drop. It took place between 3pm and 6pm. That was also therefore inaccurate.

6. The leaflet drop did not involve 10 people, it involved 3. That was also inaccurate.

7. Dr Gerald McCann was allowed to get away with describing the leaflet as 'despicable lies'. The 'Sunday Express' made no attempt to inform its readers that the content of the leaflet was the truth and that the McCanns had never rebutted any of the claims made in either '60 Reasons' or '10 Reasons'. This was grossly unfair and inaccurate. The leaflet was not 'lies' nor 'despicable lies'. It was the truth.

8. Debbie Butler was described in the 'Sunday Express' article as 'a single parent family with two children'. A more accurate description would have been 'a successful Kent businesswoman' - a fact which the reporter was made well aware of. The mere description of her as 'single parent' was unfair.

As remedies, Debbie Butler seeks:

1. A full retraction on the 'Sunday Express' front page of the description of her as 'The McCanns' Stalker'

2. A fulsome apology.

3, A payment of compensation which she tells me, if awarded, she would like to be paid in full to ChildLine.

Yours sincerely
Tony Bennett
Secretary
The Madeleine Foundation


Daily Star, 15th August 2009

SECOND COMPLAINT TO THE PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION

From: Tony Bennett
To: Press Complaints Commission
Thursday 20 August 2009

Dear Sir,I make an additional complaint about the ‘Sunday Express’ as a result of the undertmentioned events which took place yesterday.

A 'Sunday Express' journalist telephoned Debbie's ex-husband and under false pretences obtained his address. He was then door-stepped.

The journalist then fired a series of questions at him, like: "Do you have a comment to make on your ex-wife stalking the McCanns?" "Is she mentally stable?" "Aren't you worried about the childrens' welfare?" etc. etc.

Debbie is on cordial terms with her ex-husband who helps out with child care and odd jobs that need doing in the house etc. He has computer/I.T. expertise and helps out with that when needed. I'm told by Debbie that her ex-husband basically said he did not want to get involved in talking to the press and was not willing to give a view on what really happened to Madeleine McCann.

However, he did say a couple of things to the journalist, and I note them here for the record..

Debbie's ex-husband asked why they had printed such a bad picture of Debbie in the 'Sunday Express' and why they had apparently chosen the worst one. The answer from the journalist, verbatim, was: "The editor told me he wanted her portrayed as a hard cow".

Asked about Debbie's campaign about Madeleine and his views on it, he said: "I will say this. Her father is a policeman and if she says anything, she gives you the facts; that's the way she was brought up".

It was the 'Sunday Express' who led with a front-page headline: 'The McCanns' Stalker' and of course its sister paper 'The Star' who branded the Madeleine Foundation leafleters in Leicestershire as 'sickos'.

The 'Sunday Express' is clearly putting resources into planning a further personal attack on Debbie.

Yours sincerely
Tony Bennett
Secretary
The Madeleine Foundation

CORRESPONDENCE WITH STEPHEN RIGLEY, NEWS EDITOR, SUNDAY EXPRESS

From Tony Bennett, 19 August 2009

Dear Mr Rigley, Thank you for having a word just now. You informed me that Martin Townsend, the News Editor was currently away on holiday and that you were now in sole charge of editing the newspaper in his absence. Please see this complaint which we tried to forward to the Sunday Express last night. I should be glad if you could inform me as soon as possible what action you propose to take in response to Debbie Butler's complaint against you. The Press Complaints Commission has already been informed.

Sincerely
Tony Bennett for Debbie Butler

From Stephen Rigley, News Editor, Sunday Express, 
20 August 2009

Dear Mr Bennett, Thank you for your correspondence, it has been forwarded to our legal department who will deal only through the PCC.

Stephen Rigley
News Editor Sunday Express
stephen.rigley@express.co.uk




28 comments »

Anonymous said...

well done tony,i hope debbie get an appology and it has to be printed on the front page of that paper,but i fear nothing will come out of it because nobody must upset the mccanns

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't "stalker" and "sicko" libellous accusations?
I think they should sue the newspapers for defamation as well - that could even the odds.
That's just sickening.

Johanna said...

The gloves are off now?

*thumbs up*

Anonymous said...

Murdochs rags are very quiet on this one....

IRONSIDE

weiss said...

Good luck.
Just for the record, McKingdom is not real, it's just a place in a fairytail. It would be time that British press also realise that.

Anonymous said...

A 'Sunday Express' journalist telephoned Debbie's ex-husband and under false pretences obtained his address. He was then door-stepped.

The journalist then fired a series of questions at him, like: "Do you have a comment to make on your ex-wife stalking the McCanns?" "Is she mentally stable?" "Aren't you worried about the childrens' welfare?" etc. etc.


xxxxxxxxxx

If I were Tony I would stretch this out a bit more and name this reporter also as a STALKER...



IRONSIDE

su said...

Indeed the gloves are off.
And the press that have been crippled with fear must be dying to get into the ring.
Most of the journalists I know are natural born fighters.
I just hope whatever arises justice for Madeleine happens.

Anonymous said...

"Is she mentally stable?" "Aren't you worried about the childrens' welfare.

i think this reporter should ask gerry mccann these questions,after all debbie hasnt made one of her children vanish with out a trace

Anonymous said...

How long must we wait till the truth comes out? How long must we bear the almost unbearable lies, dis-information, dishonesty, libel, change things the other way around, fooling the British people and us, who donot want to be fooled.
When will it STOPPPPPP!

Anonymous said...

The picture of the Mccanns that the Daily Star chose to use is strange.

Kate is relating a story while Gerry is scratching in desbelief.

Is the Star trying to tell us something ?

Anonymous said...

looks like gerry is trying to cover a grin in the star pic,also is that a little pic of madeleine,she looks older

Anonymous said...

http://dailyhype.blogspot.com/2009/04/truecrimehype-madeleine-mccann.html

Anonymous said...

I just would like to reiterate that we have nothing to gain by being for or against the leaflets, prefer this forum or that forum... aren't all these means to the same end - getting to the truth?

Let aside quarrels that won't help at all - that's team Mccs job!
They are masters in stirring up emotions!

Regardless of what you think about the leaflets, Tonny and Debbie actually left the comfort of the couch and are showing their faces and risking their reputations and perhaps, their safety and career prospects, almost single-handedly, against forces that have already compromised an official investigation and still have the British media by the balls!

They need all the support they can get. And I, for one, take my hat to Tonny and Debbie, and sincerely hope that they go all the way and turn that disgusting campaign against them into a victory for justice and the truth - making the newspapers print one by one, all the facts that contradict the abduction theory.
ProVeritas

Anonymous said...

15/08/09
I Bet You Think This Post Is About You
So having failed to solve the mystery of the Swedish/Australian yacht, it is time to return to the tried and tested methods of "finding Madeliene McCann" - namely suing people and misusing the legal process and system.

Well actually I suspect that this isn't actually what the story in the Mail is about because if you read it, we are back the business of quotes from unnammed friends making threats to sue and Clarence Mitchell making statements that state precisely the opposite of what the tame journalist has written.

However the problem for the McCann's in pursuing an action against the Madeliene Foundation is that I suspect the defendants will not roll over, pay up an undisclosed ammount, and agree to spout whatever tripe Clarence Mitchell dreams up next. Because actually I suspect the defendants will want their time in court in order to put forward the alternative view that the British press has suppressed and masked behind the Mccann's xenophobic campaign of villification.

Now in truth I don't know what is contained in the booklet produced by the Madeliene Foundation, so I can't say if the contents of the booklet are 'hurtful' or not. And I am sure that the motives and arguments of some of those involved is a little bit weird. Oh, and I don't particularly agree with leafleting the village where the McCann's live - if for no other reason than it is counter productive because it offers the MSM the opportunity to paint this grassroots campaign for justice as a 'hate camapign'.

But equally I find it a bit odd that the McCann's, who have government access, the ability to have the papers and media print or say whatever they want, and are seemingly beyond the normal rules of the criminal law - are so worried about this leaflet circulating amongst their neighbours.

Unless of course they are worried that it might give credence to Amaral's claims. Or they are worried about the glaring questions that go to the heart of their version of events - or more precisely their versions of events - seeing as their version of events has changed more than once.

I suspect that the most that will happen will be that the police issue a caution to those distributing the booklet, on the grounds that it is causing harrassment.

After all - and allowing for the McCann's ability to pay for a judge - they could find themselves involved in a court case that could strip away their support. Something akin to the McLibel trial.

Speaking of which the European court ruled in the appeal of that case that the British libel laws needed reform because they unfairly favoured the rich. Since then nothing has been done. And if anything the libel laws have been further perverted in allowing those with the money to legally intimidate the right to free speech others to do so with seeming impunity.

But as I say this is probably a fluff story, carefully placed to distract attention from the high profile blunder involving the yacht - and to distract from the preparations in Portugal for the libel battle/battles with Amaral.

peace:)
Posted by transfattyacid at 21:07 0 comments Links to this post
14/08/09

Anonymous said...

It is known when somebody lies, that one touchs his own face, ears, head, and the observations of some anonymous are good.
Sunday Express has chosen exactly such a Gerry's photo, out of the thowsends they must have in their archives.
It is the way they found to tell us their opinion about this case and about the leaflets.
Yes, we have no bananas.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION


it was a Daily Star photo, not the Sunday Express.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to the Madeleine Foundation! But will we see a retraction? And on the front page? Let's wait and see...

"They ( the PCC ) have been described as relatively toothless,"
Yes, I remember Gerry did not post a complaint against the newspapers with the PCC, because he was advised that if monetary compensation was what he and Kate wanted to get from the papers who "slandered" them, then the PCC was not the way to go. With the PCC they would at the most get a retraction or an apology:
"But they do have the power to order newspapers to print retractions, corrections and apologies."
And as we know by now that was not enough for Mr. and Mrs. McCann, money, money, money, that's the name of the game!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was a libellous attack on her. To stalk someone is to target them personally in an illegal manner.

The McCanns have focussed public attention on Rothley themselves and in the face of the media "Pact of Silence" the Foundation were completely correct in undertaking the provocative act of distributing leaflets in Rothley.
It was provocative but it was not illegal.

However, I wouldn't advise Debbie to seek legal redress. The legal establishment in the UK is completely onside with the McCanns (as are the legal establishment in Portugal). They'd relish the chance to destroy a McCann sceptic's reputation in court.

No, the Foundation's tactics are sound. Keep on putting the case, in many and various ways until it becomes established and accept fact that the McCanns will not sue. At which point someone might ask why not.

Wizard said...

A satirical take from ‘Private Eye’ on the front page of last Sundays Express.

21st August 09 edition of Private Eye

“Richard “Dirty” Desmond’s newspapers have come up with an ingenious wheeze to recoup some of the £550,000 they paid Kat and Gerry Mccann last year, plus £375,000 to the “Tapas Seven”, for many libelious pieces.

Last weekend’s Sunday Express fitted pages one and nine with an expose of Debbie Butler, who has been distributing “highly inflammatory leaflets” suggesting that Madeleine wasn’t abducted. “Kate and Gerry are very upset and angry over these despicable lies,” a source close to the family told the paper, adding that legal action was likely.

The Sunday Express concluded by asking readers: “What do you thin? Do these people have the right to peddle such vile claims against the McCanns/” If enough readers ring the premium-rate numbers to vote yes or no, Dirty Des may yet be able to award himself a bonus, with which he can pay the £1.5 bill he incurred in his recent defeat by Tom Bower. Vote early, vote often!”

bestbefore said...

If Mr. Bennett had taken the time and trouble to read what the Press Complaints Commission can actually do in cases such as this, he would have discovered:

"The Commission has no formal powers to negotiate compensation on behalf of complainants. If you are seeking money you will need to take legal advice.'

Anonymous said...

About the BBC journalist who says that "the facts can be changed for anyone", she simply acknowledges the fact that, like many people, she doesn't form an opinion by analysing facts, but according to her beliefs and probably emotions.

This is why, extraordinary though it is, Gerry McCann can say what they did any responsible parents would have done too, (as regards their babysitting "method"), and many people will rather believe him than examine what they actually did (or didn't do). They keep saying "we are respnsible parents", and a great number of people will believe them, because they want to believe them. Those people will superbly ignore the facts, however exact the leaflet, because they do not rely on facts. It takes some maturity and some lucidity to be objective.

Yet, it is a pity some journalists are to be found among people who do not want to know about facts.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion Private Eye is beneath contempt for having failed calamitously to do ANYTHING to oppose the McCann lie machine.

One can sometimes overdo the freemasonry angle but Private Eye's editor is from a military family and went to a private school which has one of the most prestigious Freemason lodges in the country.

The chances of him being associated with freemasonry must be very high and might provide an explanation for Private Eye's otherwise baffling disinclination to do anything to defend freedom of speech in this case.

Anonymous said...

RE: ANONYMOUS POSTING ABOUT GERRY SCRATCHING HIS NOSE.
yes a brill photo. chosen deliberately. things are unravelling at last.
Well done Madeleine Foundation.

I often wondered why Gerry was always clutching Kate's hand while strolling along informally or being interviewed by the media.

Then I realised! It's so Kate can prevent him from giving the game away, by keep scratching his face.

(BTW the itch is caused by the irritation from histamine that is produced when we tell lies or get get caught out by something. Test yourself when you are embarrassed by making a mistake while driving e.g. cutting someone up, getting honked, or passing a speed camera etc - most people immediately scratch part of their face - just like the good doctor)

Dimsie said...

Writing down some facts on a leaflet and handing the leaflets out is something that's done by all sorts of people, including candidates at election time. Take away this right and that's the end of free speech as we know it.

If Debbie Butler is guilty of stalking or harassment, then so is every would-be politician who puts a leaflet through my door, drawing attention to things his opponents would rather I didn't know about. Asda is also guilty of harassment by continually drawing attention to Tesco's higher prices (or vice versa) and the Jehovah's Witnesses are guilty of heaven alone knows what by telling me in their literature (unasked for) that Armageddon is coming soon and we're all going to die.

I can't wait for the next election, to start drawing the press's attention to all the leaflets the various parties put through my door and the often startling things they say in them about other parties.

potsy said...

I am confused by all the Hoo Haa...

Where was the indignation when Moroccan Families and others were harrassed because they had a daughter who happened to be blonde?

Where are the british investigative journalists?

Where are they?

xxxooo

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Sunday Express has chosen not to run with the story this week at least. Thanks to TB's intervention?

Anonymous said...

I bought the paper copy of The Sunday Excess yesterday and there were two letter that were not exactly supportive of the Mccann case. I can't find them on the online edition. I'll try to scan them and/or retype thier contents tomorrow.

Mr B

Joana Morais said...

Thank you Mr. B, if you can please send me the newspaper scans at Joanamorais@gmail.com.

hugs, Jo

:a   :b   :c   :d   :e   :f   :g   :h   :i   :j   :k   :l   :m   :n   :o   :p   :q   :r   :s   :t

Comments Policy. Please read before posting comments.

We enjoy hearing what you have to say and welcome your comments. However, to ensure that your comments add to and not detract from our site we have put a formal comment policy in place. This allow us to set the expectation of what is and what is not acceptable to allow us to maintain the integrity of content and comments on our site. We reserve the right to delete comments we deem as spam, transparent attempts to get traffic without providing any useful commentary, and any contributions which are offensive or inappropriate for civilized discourse. We will also not tolerate personal attacks, be it against other commentators, or third parties. Although discussions often open up new topics, please try to keep the discussion on the subject of the blog post / article. Please think before you submit your comments. Comments are a reflection on you and your personality. They will live on long after you have forgotten what you said.