McCann speculation spins out of control

The McCanns are never far from the headlines and just when we thought we'd witnessed every possible new twist in the confusing yet engaging story of the disappearance of Madeleine, we are offered a new take on what may have happened on that fateful evening six months ago.
What started out as reporting and then a story about the disappearance of a little girl, Madeleine, has now become the Kate and Gerry story. The media pendulum swings from support for the plight of these suffering parents to question about what actually happened.
In the last few days we have seen headlines suggesting that the McCanns were going to sue the Portugese police for £1m while others focused on the suggestion that two of the so-called 'Tapas 9' were going to change their story - allegedly the same two who happen to live in the south west English city where Robert Murat is supposed to have been in the weeks prior to Madeleine's disappearance.
So what on earth is going on!
Can the McCann's sue the police? - yes, arguably once they have had their 'arguido' (suspect) status removed. Why bother? The officers leading the investigation have already been 'sacked' or 'stepped down', with one of them implicated in the mistreatment of a suspect in a similar case. It would be wrong to generalise but it does not take an expert to conclude that in this particular case the handling of the investigation - at its early stages - gives cause for serious concern as to its efficiency, propriety and credibility.
With much of the media and the public not taking the police investigation seriously any more does suing them help?
No. It won't bring Madeleine back and rather than concentrate on their failings and culpibility for them, one should be concentrating on continuing the quest to find Madeleine or what happened to her.
The bottom line is someone must know something.
The dilemma is that the only people who know anything tangible in relation to the evening of Madeleine's disappearance are her parents and the 'Tapas 9'. So the suggestion that there may be discrepancies in their version of events does give the media, if not the investigation legitimate cause for inquiry.
What the McCanns are experiencing is the fact that if, as they have done, one engages the media at such a pervasive level with such a compelling story, in absence of new news or a solution to the mystery, the media attention will focus on those at the centre of and telling the story, Kate and Gerry.
No one likes an unsolved mystery, least not the media. With Madeleine as yet unfound, the Portugese police largely seen as not delivering any results, then focus will be on those left talking. To think that, church going, Pope visiting Kate and Gerry could have anything to do with their own daughter's disappearance is abhorrent and rationally absurd but in absence of any developments and given the drive for media exposure, the media can't be expected to back away from the story. The real issue in relation to media coverage is distinguishing between fact and fiction, making clear what is conjecture and what is substantiated and getting the tone and context right. But has the UK press done so? Have they overstepped the mark in terms of what's been reported (especially at a secondary level in relation to what has appeared in the Portugese press), or their intrusion into the McCann's life? Mediabeak will continue the analysis of this in the next of a series of postings looking at the media story, separating fact from fiction and asking where the boundaries lie.


Anonymous said...

You criticise the media for speculation but you should look at what you write. You claim the press speculates but you are doing the same.
The McCanns cannot sue the Police.
No one in the Portuguese police was sacked.
Get your facts straight before critising others.

Anonymous said...

If anonymous knows so much perhaps they can explain what's going on? I thought the police could be sued if they could be shown to have deliberately ignored evidence and the officers leading the investigation had stood down or been removed. Surely until someone comes up with an answer all these sites we find ourselves drawn to can do no more than speculate.

Mediabeak said...

Thanks for your comments. Mediabeak was not criticising the media as such but pointing out that speculation is fuelling further speculation and we are no nearer the truth. Given we have no further tangible evidence than a photo of a bed supposed to be from the appartment from where Madelein was taken, we can't offer anything new but that does not mean we can't question how we report and react to what little we know and the large amount we get to read. Mediabeak was under the impression at least one officer had been 'removed' from the investigation - OK maybe not sacked but that's why it was reported as 'sacked'. If either of your anonymous good selves can shed light on whether the McCanns may have any cause of action against the police please do enlighten as it would be interesting to find out.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mediabeak,

I am happy that you are interested in knowing if the MacCanns may have any cause of action against the police. Let's make a simple exercise of reasoning. It's common knowledge that not always the police can solve every crime, there are crimes that are never solved. Others may take years to solve, this is a fact and occurs in every country in the world.

What legislator would actually legislate in order to allow people to sue in such a case? None because any government in the world would go bankrupt immediately.

Portuguese legislation is very restricted when it concerns suing for compensation concerning criminal law. The law in fact allows a lawsuit in case of wrongful arrest. For instance if an individual is arrested preventively for a crime and in the end of the trial he or she is absolved in that case yes, he or she can sue the State for being held in prison.

In this case not only were the parents not arrested but they have not been (for the time being at least) charged with anything. Their present status is the Term of Identity and Residence (TIR). This means that they have been identified by the police and they were obliged to give an address where they can be contacted by the police at any time and that should they move away or travel to another country they must inform the police. That is established by the Portuguese Code of Penal Procedure, article 196.

It's indeed regretable that the press have published so much rubbish and misinformed people.

Mediabeak said...

Thanks for your clarification - what Mediabeak would like to do is post an article that tries to set the record straight and present how the Portuguese process works - Mediabeak doesn't think that the secrecy procedure under the law has been properly explained in the media nor has the 'arguido' status. As you point out - the McCann's have not been arrested or falsely imprisoned so - as Mediabeak understands it - they would have no cause of action.
If you can prvide more information on the system, Mediabeak will (1) post it on this site and (2) try to place a piece in the press that explains the process - we can't (unfortunately) solve the crime but it will provide some balance to debate if we can objectively analyse the process.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mediabeak,

For your information and clarification please find below the explanation of arguido status and secrecy of justice. I hope that it will allow you to write an article about the subject.

The arguido status

In Portuguese law a person is constitued as an arguido when she or he is suspected of having committed a crime.

A person can request to be made "arguida" because he or she will benefit from rights that he/she does not have as a witness. Apart of the obligation of being accompanied by a lawyer when giving depositions in front of police authorities, the arguido has the right to remain silent and not reply to any questions. This means that as a potential suspect he or she is acting in their own defence. A witness by law is obliged to reply to all questions.

A person is constituted arguido during the investigation phase when sufficient evidence is collected to formulate an accusation. At that time, the less serious of the coercive sanctions which is the "term of identity and residence" is applied to the arguido. This term can be translated as a kind of conditional liberty where the arguido is obliged to inform the police authorities whenever he/she is absent for more than 5 days. An arguido can also be submitted to other coercion measures, the most severe being the "preventive arrest", which is usually applied when there is the danger of escape, disturbance of the investigation, possibility of destroying evidence, etc.

Secrecy of justice

The notion of secrecy of justice means a special jurisdiction obligation that applies to any person with direct knowledge of an act or document of the penal procedure. That person must comply to that secrecy, meaning he/she is forbidden to talk or reveal the content of that act or document.

The secrecy of the inquiry or investigation aims to satisfy the functionality of the juridical machine in the preliminary phases of the process. The arguido cannot be granted access to clues and evidence collected during the investigation since there might be over-riding interests such as: national security, witnesses protection, efficacy of the investigation and the obtaining of evidence.

The aim of the secrecy of justice is to ensure the secrecy of the criminal procedure, and allows also the guarantee that justice is made in an independent and unbiased way without the interference of other sovereign organs. Interference is also prevented from pressure groups or persons with personal (or institutional) power able to spread erroneous information campaigns through the media, harming the discovery and preservation of evidence and thus hindering the conclusions of the penal procedure.