Saturday

The Madeleine Foundation: Combating child neglect: Letter to McCanns lawyers

Below is a letter from The Madeleine Foundation to the McCanns lawyers - and the reply from Bates, Wells and Braithwaite.

The Madeleine Foundation
Combating child neglect

Registered address: 66 Chippingfield, HARLOW, Essex CM17 0DJ
Website: http://madeleinefoundation.org/

Bates Wells & Braithwaite Friday 18 July 2008
2-6 Cannon Street
LONDON
EC4M 6YH

Attn: Ms Rosamund McCarthy, Solicitor to Dr Kate McCann and Dr Gerry McCann. Sent by e-mail and hard copy

Dear Sirs,

re: Madeleine Foundation’s ‘Madeleine’s Law’ campaign against child neglect - and the ‘No to Neglect’ petition on the Prime Minister’s website

I write on behalf of The Madeleine Foundation, which your clients Dr Kate and Dr Gerry McCann, via their spokesman Mr Clarence Mitchell, recently criticised in an article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’.

First of all, for the record, the Madeleine Foundation was formally established on 26 January 2008 and its stated objectives are as follows:

a) to make every effort to ensure that Kate and Gerry McCann are prosecuted for their admitted abandoning of their children six nights in a row in Praia da Luz

b) to change the law in whatever way is needed in order to send out a clear message to all parents that leaving young children on their own is never acceptable, and to strive for the adoption of a ‘Madeleine’s Law’ with its key message: “Never leave young children on their own”

c) to pursue - in conjunction with others - the truth about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance on 3 May 2007, and in particular to encourage Kate and Gerry McCann and the friends who were with them in Praia da Luz to tell the truth about Madeleine’s disappearance

d) to investigate the facts behind the extent of British government involvement in this case and the reasons for it

e) to ensure that the media, in particular the British media, report this case accurately and give due weight to the opinions of so many of the general public that the McCanns are withholding the truth about Madeleine’s disappearance

f) to demand a full-scale investigation by the relevant authorities into the activities of the Find Madeleine Fund private trust and to encourage the trustees of that fund to give full particulars about its income and expenditure to the public who have donated so generously to it with the express purpose of finding Madeleine

g) to generally promote the welfare of children, in particular by ensuring that parents are aware of the psychological needs of their children and ensuring that the relevant authorities take appropriate action to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The use of Madeleine’s name by our Foundation is because your clients have made Madeleine ‘public property’. They have asked the world to search for Madeleine. They have asked the world to contribute to the Trust Fund:- ‘Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited’. They have appeared on countless TV news bulletins, documentaries, and interviews. Their faces and that of Madeleine are amongst the best-known on the planet. So she has become all of ours, as this recent comment on a blog surely exemplifies: “I have done enough crying over Madeleine, like she were my very own“.

We note that your clients, from the ‘Daily Telegraph’ report, are worried that people might donate to The Madeleine Foundation, thinking that they are donating to the Trust Fund that your clients set up with the stated purpose of helping to find Madeleine. Please tell them that they need not worry about losing a source of income. We are seeking members, not donations, and when our website goes live, there will be a clear statement on our home page that The Madeleine Foundation is not concerned with the matter of helping to find Madeleine but is primarily interested in the child neglect issues raised by your clients admitting to leaving their three children on their own in Praia da Luz.

‘Madeleine’s Law’

The main purpose of my writing to you at this stage, apart from correcting the misleading impression given by ‘The Daily Telegraph’ about our aims, is to ask if your clients would support our campaign to tighten up and re-define the laws on child neglect, especially insofar it concerns the law on leaving young children on their own. We were prompted to launch this campaign by reports from the Doctors McCann themselves that they claimed to have been told - by an unnamed professional source - that their admitted leaving of three very young children, all aged under four, on their own, six nights in a row, in Praia da Luz, was ‘well within the bounds of responsible parenting’.

We disagree, as do millions of others who know about the circumstances leading up to Madeleine ‘going missing’, and so of course does the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

The N.S.P.C.C. say on their website:

(a ) “The NSPCC advise that most children under 13 are not mature enough to cope in an emergency, and should not be left alone for more than a very short while. You should never leave babies or young children alone in the home, whether they are asleep or awake, not even for a few minutes”, and

(b) “It’s never O.K. to leave a baby alone, not even for a few minutes. What if the baby wakes up just as his parent had left? For a baby, 15 minutes is a long time to feel abandoned and left to cry alone. The risks are dangerous too. What is the baby was sick or there was a fire?” and,

(c) “Young children should never be left alone, not even for a short time. An hour without you or another caring adult can be very lonely and distressing. And there are many serious safety risks to a curious, exploring child”.

Many other child welfare organisations say exactly the same. It seems very odd to us that the unnamed professional source quoted by the Doctors McCann should so flatly contradict the advice of the N.S.P.C.C. and other child welfare organisations.

Your clients may also be aware that, recently, the Children’s Legal Centre has also drawn attention to the growing problem of young children being left alone by their parents and, like The Madeleine Foundation, is also calling for a change in the law.

We would therefore invite your clients to do two things.

First, we should be glad if they would support the petition of Mr Anthony Bennett, currently on the Prime Minister’s website, which calls for it to be made a criminal offence to leave children under 12 on their own. This would be subject to a qualification that the children were left on their own ‘without reasonable excuse’. Mr Bennett is a professionally qualified social worker with an M.A. in Social Work. The petition may be viewed at: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/no-to-neglect/

Second, we invite your clients to publicly support our campaign for changes to the law on child neglect, under the slogan: “Never leave young children on their own”. We feel sure that the Doctors McCann, especially bearing in mind their professional standing, would recognise that the main issue in the case of missing Madeleine is not about setting up schemes like ‘Amber Alert’, which only kick in, so to speak where a child has gone missing, i.e. after the horse has bolted, but, rather, that a clear and resounding message should go out to all parents that, as a parent, you never leave young children on their own. We know from our contacts that many people long for the Doctors McCann to spell out this clear message - and also to state publicly, in line with the views of the N.S.P.C.C. and other child welfare organisations, that it is never ‘responsible’ to leave young children on their own, even for a few minutes.

Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited

I turn now to the failure to date of the Trustees of the Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited to give an account to the general public of how much money has come into the Madeleine’s Fund - and on what it has been spent. There have been many contradictions and evasive statements by the Trustees and Mr Clarence Mitchell about the trust Fund. What is urgently needed is a clear statement of what income has been received by the Fund, from what sources, and on what it has been spent. We say this because the Doctors McCann and their public relations team invited the public to contribute large sums of money - on the basis that it was being used to ‘help to find Madeleine’. The Fund may have been set up as a ‘private company’, but it is a private company that has relied for the majority of its income on a very public appeal for donations.

The questions that need to be answered by the Trustees, and on which we now seek your replies, include:

a) how much money has been donated by the general public?

b) how much money has been donated by major benefactors?

c) how much money has been raised by selling yellow bangles and other ‘Madeleine merchandise’?

d) how much more has been raised for the Fund by fees for the Doctors McCann appearing on TV programmes, for giving newspaper and magazine interviews, and other media and film publicity opportunities? [in this respect, it would also assist if the Trustees and/or the Doctors McCann were to state on the record whether the Doctors have paid all of their TV/media/magazine/interview fees into the Fund or only a proportion. If it is only a proportion, we suggest that the public be informed what proportion has been retained by the Doctors]

e) how much money, if any, was paid by the Doctors McCann into the Fund from their successful libel action against ‘Express Newspapers’?

f) how much has been spent on the services of Metodo 3 to date and how much has been paid for the services of Control Risks Group to date?

g) how much other expenditure has been incurred in directly trying to find Madeleine?

h) how much has been spent by the Fund on the Doctors McCann’s mortgage payments?

i) what other payments have been made, by way of expenses or other sums, to:

(i) the Doctors McCann
(ii) the Trustees, in respect of their expenses or otherwise
(iii) professionals providing services to the Trustees, e.g. yourselves, the Trust’s bankers, the Trust’s accountants and auditors etc.
(iv) any other person.

j) has the Trust Fund made any payments towards the legal expenses of the McCanns, either their legal costs in the U.K. or their legal costs in Portugal? If so, how much has the Trust Fund paid out towards those legal expenses?

k) what is the current balance of Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited?

We would appreciate an answer to as many of these questions as the Trust are prepared to release at this time. If answers cannot be given to all of these queries, when will the Trust Fund be able to publish a full set of accounts for public scrutiny, having regard to the public interest in knowing where their generous donations have gone. As an example of public concern about the way the Madeleine Trust Fund has operated, we draw your attention to your failure to reply to another organisation concerned about the Trust Fund: ‘Truth for Madeleine’.

On 21 January this year, ‘Truth for Madeleine’ wrote to your firm pointing out that:

“The company is either a bona fide and legitimate company who is aiming to complete its stated objectives - or it is living up to the belief of many that it is some kind of scam. Up until now, the feedback we are experiencing is hardly helping to alleviate any thoughts that the Madeleine Fund is not acting professionally and with the integrity one would expect from a large, high-profile fund. Other members of the public have written to Bates Wells & Braithwaite and I know they have received what amounts to a standard response. This is not good enough. Poor elderly people as well as young children have made donations to the Madeleine Fund. Those people do not get their mortgages paid from a fund. They deserve better and they need to know what is happening from the horse’s mouth, and not from tabloids. On behalf of the many disgruntled donors to the fund, this website [Truth for Madeleine] is requesting the following information:

1. Who can this site contact to request information about the fund and its use in accomplishing its stated objectives?
2. As the press seem to be misrepresenting the real facts of the use of the fund, can Bates Wells or Madeleine’s Fund’ make an official status report as to the use of the donated money?
3. How much of the fund has been used for personal expenses beyond the two stated mortgage payments to Mr & Mrs Gerry McCann?
4. Can a donor request a refund if the donor is not happy that the money was used for the stated objectives?
5. As the official Madeleine website does not give accurate information as to the fund total or its expenditure, can either Bates Wells or the company give an up to date figure for the fund total?
6. Who is in charge of the company on a day to day basis and who controls the operations?
7. What other companies were considered along with Metodo 3 before making a decision to recruit Metodo 3 to look for missing Madeleine and what arm’s length methods were used to choose this particular outfit?
8. Were any of the Bates Wells and Braithwaite’s staff known to any of the Madeleine’s Fund board of directors prior to incorporation of the latter?
9. What are the current stated objectives of Madeleine’s Fund’?
10. What is the current board of directors?

We do not ourselves necessarily seek answers to the above questions. But the longer that the Trust Fund, and yourselves, the Doctors McCann and Mr Clarence Mitchell continue to hide the finances of the Trust and refuse to answer reasonable questions from the public and from organisations like ours, the greater the suspicion that this is not a Trust Fund about helping to find Madeleine at all, but has other purposes.
Metodo 3

Finally, Metodo 3 has been employed by the Trust Fund for nearly a year now. Once again, there have been contradictory statements issued to the press by Mr Mitchell and others about how much Metodo 3 is being paid. A common figure mentioned is £50,000 a month. A statement was made by its Director shortly before Christmas last year that, in terms, ‘We are hot on the trail of Madeleine, she is still alive, and would be home by Christmas’.

Have the large sums of money that have been spent by the Trust Fund on Metodo 3 to date brought the Doctors McCann anywhere nearer finding out if there was an abductor, who he is, whether if they know who he is, he had accomplices, and where he took Madeleine if he did so and what he has done with her? Unless Metodo 3 has provided good answers to these questions by now, then it seems from statements made by Mr Mitchell that over £½ million has been spent getting nowhere.

I await hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Debbie Butler
Chairman
The Madeleine Foundation

The reply to this letter from Bates, Wells and Braithwaite

Full text of the letter addressed to Ms Debbie Butler:

QUOTE

“25 July 2008

Refs:
RMcC/MB/203749/0001
203749/0001/000518703/Ver.01

-----

Dear Madam,

re: ‘Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned Limited (”the Fund”)

We refer to your letter of 18th July 2008 which we have passed to the Fund.

We have no instructions from the Fund to reply to your letter.

Yours faithfully

Bates Wells & Braithwaite”

UNQUOTE

http://madeleinefoundation.org/main/2008/07/foundation-writes-to-bwb/