It was the Lisbon judge who provided the strongest support for the Bureau's contention that the libel trial has become a complete irrelevance to the establishment of truth in the Madeleine McCann affair. As she said to Gerry McCann:
"The point isn't to establish whether things are true or not, this is not the issue."
Well you can't say fairer than that, can you?
With the little matter of the role of truth disposed of, what's left? Well, partisanship worthy of a Brazil world cup tie, judging by comments surrounding the case on the net. Much elation at possible signs that the judge is "not fooled" by the couple; but that's another way of saying that she shouldn't judge the case on the evidence but on what sceptics think is the true nature of the pair. That's not really what "justice" is about, is it? What would sceptics say if a McCann supporter expressed satisfaction that the judge can "see through" Goncalo Amaral? Or gloated at a judge's supposedly curt demand for Goncalo to be quiet? Come on!
There really is a deadly contradiction here. If right and wrong are so easily seen from the stands then how come the Portuguese justice system has been unable to establish them on the field after five years and counting? Either Goncalo Amaral has no case to answer, in which event he is the victim of a disgusting and medieval miscarriage of justice by the Portuguese, a scandal which nobody in Portugal, literally nobody, shows any sign of ending (national holidays etc. are much more important); or else there is a solid case in Portuguese law that the couple, as things stand, have been wronged – which makes a nonsense of the lazy certainties of commentators that GA didn't libel them. Well which is it?
To be fair the judge at the London trial of that unlikely martyr Tony Bennett also excluded any consideration of the truth about the disappearance from his proceedings, confining them, as he had to, as things stand, to the narrow question of the observance or otherwise of Bennett's undertakings. Yet, without wanting to be unkind, the contrast between the fate of Bennett at the hands of the corrupt, whitewashing, paedophile-led, McCann-protecting British justice system and that of Amaral is stark: Bennett was never ambushed by a secret tribunal like Amaral nor judged in his absence but given chance after chance to stop libelling; he suffered no seizures of his property and his fortune remains almost completely untouched; he is at liberty; he has been pursued for only a fraction of the costs he was liable for, with the UK public via its contributions to the money-spinning Fund, paying the rest; far from being subject to some ghastly UK super-injunction the restrictions on his right to comment on the case have been laughable in their looseness; Bennett was not trapped in an incomprehensible five years plus legal nightmare but dealt with expeditiously once he had stopped stalling the case. And, importantly, everyone has access to the full judgement on the internet and can purchase the official transcript if they wish.
Doesn't that suggest something or other?
The McCanns face a judge
But Mr Bennett is relevant in another context.
The court statements by the McCanns last week were something of a damp squib for those of us who had waited many years to see them in court. Real life being what it is we weren't going to get tearful collapses as their lies were ruthlessly exposed, Hollywood fashion. European trials don't provide the jugular-dripping savaging of witnesses that the UK adversarial model so satisfyingly displays, so we'd already grown used to watching trial witnesses (with the exception of Angus MacBride of course) falling into silence rather than being gleefully shredded. And the personal statement format provided additional protection for the couple.
Thus the parents, well briefed by Duarte, were able to make a smooth, not to say oily, transition from the outrageous fiction of their claims in the original writ to their new versions without being verbally cudgelled for their dishonesty, leaving it to connoisseurs of McCann porkies to note the way in which the semi-catatonic depression originally claimed was just, well, feeling a bit miserable for a while, and the quarter million euros worth of horrific, permanent and disabling insomnia and anxiety had, in Gerry McCanns soothing words, dwindled into a mere temporary episode.
When listing the undeniable inferences to be drawn from Amaral's book about their actions as things stand the couple were on much firmer ground, as the judge's comments unquestionably confirm, prompting the thought that had they stuck to these claims alone they would be favourites to win; being the McCanns, however, they had to surround the possible truth at the heart of their writ with a thick dressing of lies, in this case easily disprovable ones. In an English libel court this irrefutable evidence of mendacity in the claim would weigh heavily in the judgement – but in Portugal? Only the Portuguese, one presumes, can say.
Their statements to the court avoided the undeniable collusion in their May 4 2007 police statements, the very first act, be it remembered, in their successful obstruction of the Interrupted Investigation— for agreed stories are, by definition, a subversion of an inquiry. But there was just one recognizable "agreed joint line" in their statements last week. It concerned Mr Bennett.
KMC: Both People on the Web and through e-mails were stimulated to insult them, like the Madeleine Foundation, and created a lot of damages. As Gonçalo Amaral was the coordinator of the investigation, it provided him credibility and it intensified the vilification of them.
Judge: What is the Madeleine Foundation?
KMC explains that it's a group of people who essentially promotes theories up to the point of trying to manipulate people in their village.
Judge What relation is there between this group and the book?
KMC says there is none, but they invited Gonçalo Amaral. She thinks that he didn't go.
Judge This group was created because of the book?
KMC – No, it existed before the book was published. She says that obviously the book strengthened them.
GMC says that, thanks to the legal actions, the content of the book hasn't been published by the MSM, but small minority groups, in the UK, have launched campaigns of persecution against them, based on the book.
Judge – Can you name them?
GMC – Yes, we had legal actions against the Madeleine Foundation and the name is Anthony Bennett.
Judge – What relation exists between this group and the publication of the book?
GMC says that AB used parts of the book, interviewed Gonçalo Amaral and invited him on a forum.
Judge – Did the group exist before the publication?
GMC isn't sure about that. But he's able to say that the material they used was based on the allegations of the book. They published pamphlets that said that Madeleine hadn't been abducted. They distributed them to his neighbours and in the whole Leicestershire. This led AB to receive many warnings from his juridical counsels and finally to be sued.
The reader can see at once the prepared nature and, in places, near identity of their comments. In the scheme of things – the alleged suffering, the implications of Amaral's book, the effect on their children, the apparent conversion of the whole of Portugal into believers in their guilt by the book, all the things laid out at length and with such fury by Kate McCann in Madeleine – the emphasis on Mr Bennett seems absurdly disproportionate. And it is: those words about Bennett make up twenty per cent of their statements.
The drift of their shared line is clear: they wish to stress a firm link between Amaral and Bennett, one that includes Bennett's foundation using Amaral's theories to persecute them, including distributing incriminating leaflets and "manipulating" their neighbours all over their home county; Amaral, they claim, was close enough to Bennett to be invited to address his foundation. And they make it clear that they sued him for libel. Successfully.
Note that a considerable part of the McCanns' Portuguese libel claim, involving, particularly, the testimony of Angus MacBride, is the effect Goncalo Amaral's book has had in the UK, both in causing pain and distress to the couple with the claims of body disposal and cover-up and in helping convince the British that the child, and therefore the search for her, was dead.
The McCanns want to win their case. Very, very much. So the question for the reader is, "why did they spend 20% of the time granted to them in court addressing the judge on Amaral's supposed links with Bennett"? What exactly were they hoping to achieve by doing so? To us the answer is blindingly obvious but others may have a different view.
As things stand. Well, if people want things to stand differently then they'll just have to look beyond Lisbon, won't they? As, come to think of it, may Goncalo Amaral since the only place where the establishment of truth "is an issue" is within the wicked, whitewashing joint investigation. That's all there is, chums.