Mr Tim Scott, Q.C., International Family Law Group, acting for Gerry and Kate McCann: Madeleine McCann is a ward of Court. She had her 5th birthday on 12 May 2008. Gerry and Kate are not here as they are on holiday with their twins, Sean and Amelie. Who could deserve a holiday more after a period more traumatic than any family should have to cope with.
Mrs Justice Hogg: I did not expect to see them.
Mr Tim Scott continues: As the world knows, Madeleine was abducted from an apartment at a resort in Praia Da Luz in Portugal on 03 May 2007. No one has ever been arrested or charged in connection with her abduction. Her whereabouts are completely unknown. There is no proof that she is alive, but there is not a scrap of evidence that she is not. After the abduction Gerry and Kate McCann set in motion their own search with professional assistance. A Fund was set up to finance the search and many people, often those who could barely afford it, have given generously to that fund. Simultaneously a massive international police search was launched. Since the McCann family lives in Leicestershire, the Leicestershire Constabulary has been the lead force among UK law enforcement agencies. Gerry and Kate would like, through me, to acknowledge the enormous effort which has been devoted both by the Leicestershire Constabulary and by other law enforcement agencies to the search for Madeleine. They would also like to thank many individual officers for the kindness and concern which they have shown to the family throughout this terrible time. Proceedings were started in this Court by a summons dated 17 May 2007. The sole purpose of the proceedings has been to call upon the extensive powers of the High Court to require assistance to be given in the search for a missing child. It is of course quite routine in the Family Division for such Orders to be made. For example in an appropriate case (though not this one) an Order can be made against a mobile phone company to produce the call record of a phone. It was never the parents’ wish that the proceedings should become adversarial. On 22 May 2007 an Order was made by you in very wide terms requiring any person on whom the Order was served to disclose to the parents’ solicitors any information which might assist in identifying Madeleine’s whereabouts. The Order contained a clause entitling any person served with it to apply to discharge or vary it. Among the bodies on whom the Order was served was the Leicestershire Constabulary, who immediately expressed doubts as to whether the Order was intended to or could properly extend to them. In due course the parents’ solicitors issued a further application seeking clarification of this. On 02 April 2008 you gave directions which were intended to lead to a hearing at which this question would be resolved. This is that hearing. As the preparations for this hearing advanced, it became clear that the Leicestershire Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies, while personally sympathetic to the position of the McCann’s objected on principle to the disclosure of at least the great bulk of the information in their possession. They raised a number of legal arguments relating among other matters to the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of police investigations. Both the Serious Organised Crimes Agency and the Attorney-General intervened in the proceedings in order to advance their own arguments on issues of public policy. It became clear that if today’s hearing proceeded on a fully contested basis a number of areas of law of great interest to lawyers would have had to be considered. However Gerry and Kate McCann are not lawyers and so far as they were concerned the legal proceedings were moving further and further from the only matter which concerns them: the search for Madeleine. The proceedings were in danger of becoming a distraction from rather than an aid to that single goal. Also there have been two recent developments which have greatly affected Gerry and Kate’s views on these proceedings. The first is that the Leicestershire Constabulary has now agreed to release an important, though limited, part of the information which they have been seeking; I shall come back to that. The second is that, as has been widely publicised, it is expected that Gerry and Kate’s status in Portugal as arguidos or suspects will be lifted soon. When that happens it is hoped and expected that a substantial further amount of information will be released. Since Gerry and Kate have always wanted to work with all law enforcement agencies on a cooperative basis, they decided to withdraw the application against the Leicestershire Constabulary. We therefore come to Court today to ask you to approve an Order which all parties consent to. The first part of the Order recites that the Chief Constable of Leicestershire has agreed to provide by today a document in accordance with Paragraph 50 of the Skeleton Argument which has been presented to the Court on his behalf. That Paragraph is at 34. It says that the Chief Constable is currently preparing a document which will provide the parents with the contact details of persons that have been forwarded to the investigation by the parents or those acting for them. This document will also contain a brief resume of the information that it is believed the person informed the parents or those acting for them that they wished to pass on to the investigation. I said earlier that this is an important but limited amount of the information which Gerry and Kate had hoped to obtain. I would like to explain why it is important. Although the Leicestershire Constabulary were quick to set up a major incident room and to provide a telephone number which anyone with information could call, there was a period of time before this became widely known. During that time Gerry and Kate’s solicitor, Ms Ann Thomas of The International Family Law Group, who sits in front of me, had already been retained. Her firm’s number was publicised and a large number of people called in. All of these callers were given the number which the Leicestershire Constabulary had set up for the purpose. The solicitors thought it right that the police should be receiving it. In fact with few exceptions the solicitors did not even retain any notes on what the callers were saying or even their contact details. So what the Chief Constable is now voluntarily providing is the contact details and a summary of the information provided by a substantial number of people who were among the first to try to help the investigation. It is because these were on the whole people who came forward to volunteer information in the period immediately after the abduction that it is likely that the information which they provided will be most helpful. So on that basis Gerry and Kate McCann are content to withdraw their application for any wider disclosure. Paragraph 4 of the Order provides that the documents in the case shall remain confidential to the Court. This of course is completely normal in wardship. An exception is made to enable the Chief Constable at his discretion to reveal the contents of his evidence and the legal arguments advanced on his behalf. The parents understand that the points of principle which have arisen are of wider interest to law enforcement agencies, and they would not want to restrict proper discussion of those matters which might have a beneficial purpose in future investigations. They are confident that the Chief Constable will exercise his discretion in a responsible way. The search for Madeleine continues. The fund which was established in May 2007 known as “Madeleine’s Fund – Leaving No Stone Unturned” remains closely involved in the search. It always has been and remains Gerry and Kate’s purpose to leave no stone unturned. This was why they asked for the assistance of this Court in the first place, and this is why, in the light of developing circumstances, they now withdraw their application. We hope that you will accept, and will feel able to say that they have behaved completely properly and responsibly at every stage.
Mr James Lewis QC, for the Chief Constable of Leicestershire: We would like you to approve the Order. As the Court heard, any person served with the Order should disclose any information that would help to find Madeleine . We wish to make it clear that the primary aim is to ensure that no stone is left unturned. There must be a balance between the rights of Plaintiffs to have as much information as possible and the risk of compromising the continuing criminal investigation, damaging future international co-operation, and a potential breach of Portuguese law. The parents get information that emanates from them and there is no breach of Portuguese law. The Chief Constable asks the Court to make clear that previous Orders don’t apply. The case is not closed. The Chief Constable wishes to reiterate anyone with information should come forward to the police. The amount of information is 81 pieces of information out of 11,000 pieces of information on the computer system.
Representative of the Attorney General: The Attorney General intervened as Guardian of the public interest and has no further comment to make.
Mrs Justice Hogg: Madeleine went missing on 3 May 2007 just a few days before her 4th birthday, while she was holidaying with her family in the Algarve in Portugal. On 17 May 2007 Madeleine’s parents invoked the jurisdiction of this Court under the Inherent Jurisdiction of the Court, and The Child Abduction and Custody Act, and the Hague Convention. They sought various orders and directions aimed at ascertaining the whereabouts and recovery of Madeleine. I became involved with the proceedings shortly afterwards. On 2 April 2008 Madeleine became a Ward of this Court, and since that date has remained a Ward. At all times jurisdiction was assumed by the Court because, there being no evidence to the contrary, it is presumed Madeleine is alive. She is a British Citizen, and like her parents habitually resident here. The current application was made on 2 April 2008 by the parents seeking disclosure of information and documents from the Chief Constable of Leicestershire to assist them and their own investigations in their search for Madeleine. Such are the complexities of the issues involved other interested parties were invited and joined to the application, and directions given for the hearing today. The parties have reached an accommodation whereby the Chief Constable will provide to Madeleine’s parents contact details of members of the public who had themselves contacted the parents or their solicitors, and which on receipt were immediately passed to the Chief Constable, together with a brief resume of the information given. The parents do not wish to pursue other aspects of the application, and save for the draft consent order being approved by this Court wish to withdraw their application and seek leave to do so. I have no criticism of the parents in making this application. They have behaved responsibly and reasonably throughout. I have considered the documents provided to this Court by the various parties, and have concluded that the agreement reached by the parties is entirely appropriate, and that the parents should be permitted to withdraw the balance of their application. I will make the Order by Consent as sought. In particular paragraph 1 of the Order made on the 22 May 2007 shall be varied with the words: “The terms of this paragraph shall not apply to the Chief Constable of Leicestershire or any other United Kingdom law enforcement agency. And for the avoidance of doubt all the evidence submitted to the Court and the Case Summaries and Skeleton Arguments remain confidential to the Court save that the Chief Constable may use his discretion to disclose his evidence, case summary and skeleton arguments filed in this Court and the Orders of 22 May 2007, 2 April 2008 and this Order. Any other documents and their contents are not to be disclosed to any person or published save in accordance with Orders already made by the Court or further Order of the Court”. It may be noted that neither of the Parents is present today. I let it be known last week that providing their legal team was fully instructed neither parent need be present, and I would not criticise or bear any ill-feeling towards them if they chose to stay away. It was my decision as they have suffered enough, and I wished to ease their burden. I know the police authorities and other official law enforcement agencies in this country, in Portugal and elsewhere have striven and will continue to strive to trace Madeleine. I urge anyone who has any information however small or tenuous to come forward now so that further enquiries can be made. There is, of course, as least one person who knows what has happened to Madeleine, and where she may be found. I ponder about that person: whether that person has a heart and can understand what it must be like for Madeleine to have been torn and secreted from her parents and siblings whom she loves and felt secure with, and whom no doubt misses and grieves for. Whether that person has a conscience or any feeling of guilt, remorse or even cares about the hurt which has been caused to an innocent little girl: whether that person has a faith and belief, and what explanation or justification that person will give to God. I entreat that person whoever and wherever you may be to show mercy and compassion, and come forward now to tell us where Madeleine is to be found. I hope and pray that Madeleine will be found very soon alive and well. I confirm the Wardship and Madeleine will remain a Ward of Court until further Order of the Court. The case will be reserved to myself subject to my availability.
Notes (i) Colour Coding for Sources: International Family Law Group (re Tim Scott address)
International Family Law Group (re Justice Hogg judgement)
Tags: Attorney-General, Consent Order, Family Division of the High Court, Gerry and Kate McCann, High Court, IN THE MATTER OF MADELEINE BETH McCANN, International Family Law Group, Leicestershire Constabulary, Leicestershire Police, Madeleine McCann, Mrs Justice Hogg, Ms Ann Thomas, Portugal, Praia Da Luz, Serious Organised Crimes Agency, Tim Scott QC