Express Newspapers pays McCanns damages

The unprecedented group apology by Express Newspapers to the McCanns signals a ‘group conspiracy”, according to one former tabloid editor.

The Daily Express and Daily Star have both published the most prominent front-page apologies seen in the UK national press since The Daily Mirror’s Iraq torture picture scandal of 2004.

They follow more than a hundred stories which Kate and Gerry McCann claim implied they were responsible for the death of their daughter Madeleine. More apologies are to appear in the Sunday titles.

Former Daily Mirror editor David Banks said: ‘Everybody’s calling for the heads of the editors, but when you get a group apology it strikes me that there’s a group conspiracy.

‘You don’t get four editors on their own making the same mistake for 11 months. I don’t think it’s a terrible day for the press. It’s a terrible day for the Press Complaints Commission – they’ve been left behind.”

Express Newspapers has agreed to pay ‘a very substantial sum’to the McCanns, which will go to the Madeleine Fund. The upper limit on UK libel payouts has previously been £200,000. The payout, thought to be £550,000, takes into account the fact that both McCanns were libelled, four papers were involved and more than a hundred stories were disputed.

In its apology, the Daily Express said: ‘We accept that a number of articles in the newspaper have suggested that the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up.

‘We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.”

Caroline Kean, a litigation expert with law firm Wiggin, said the settlement came after the Express papers had ‘gone too far’in reporting allegations against the McCanns as fact.

‘We all know that at one point the McCanns were suspects and of course it’s absolutely legitimate for a newspaper to report that. But you have to make sure that you don’t go too far and adopt allegations as true. It’s clearly in the public interest to report on the case, but if you sensationalise it then you do so at your own peril.”

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