Well, it seems that the media furore around the plight of poor, missing, Maddie McCann wont be dying down any day soon. As I have said in the past (more than once) the whole deal around this incident infuriates me. It must be interesting / infuriating / exciting lots of other people as well, because around 1/4 of all traffic to this blog last week was generated by people looking for comments about the McCanns being murderers. Not surprising really, given the massive amounts of media coverage.
First off, I am in complete agreement with the Archbishop of York that, for all intents and purposes Kate and Gerry McCann are innocent until proven guilty of murder in a court of law. Although he never said it, I will be charitable and assume that Dr Sentamu also included all other people charged with any form of crime – because that, basically, is what the law is supposed to uphold. What I may personally think about the McCanns is nothing more than my own opinion – unless by the will of Loki I am called up for Jury duty over their case (although if the Portuguese court calls me up for jury duty it would be bloody good evidence Loki existed…), nothing I think about them really matters.
The oddest thing I find about this whole saga, and I still find it odd even now, is how the presumption of innocence seems so strong towards Kate and Gerry McCann that people will go out of their way to show support for them. Total strangers, who can have had no contact with either of the McCann parents, stormed out of an Irish comedian’s act because he made jokes implying the McCann parents were murders. Foolish Patrick, if only he had stuck to jokes about race, war and so on – they are much more acceptable. People in countries across the world have put up posters “raising awareness” about missing Maddie (so obviously there is an assumption she is the last person on Earth who doesn’t need ten forms of ID to get on a plane…) and ordinary, poor, people have donated a fortune (over Â£1,000,000 so far) to support the parents in their round the world
holiday awareness raising mission.
Not to be outdone, the rich and famous have joined in with this madness. Based on nothing more than Kate McCann’s hearfelt TV appearances (and the outpourings of their professional team of spokespeople…), Richard Branson has donated Â£100,000 to set up a defence fund to ensure they “have a fair hearing.” This nearly made me choke to death. Last Sunday, the BBC reported:
“Over the last few weeks Richard has been watching events as they have unfolded,” said his spokeswoman.
“There is a whole family involved here. When the McCanns made it known that under no circumstances would they touch the Find Madeleine fund, and discussed selling their house, Richard felt something had to be done.”
Sir Richard is a father himself and the most important thing for him is that a four-year-old girl is missing, the spokeswoman added.
“If he can help a little bit to take the burden off the family and extended family in this small way, then that’s all to the good.”
Wow. I never realised Sir Richard was in the business of funding suspected criminals in their defence – to ensure they get a fair trial. Are we to assume this is purely out of the goodness of his heart, and nothing to do with the fact the McCanns are middle class, Catholic, professional (white) people who have spent the last three months all over the TV and newspapers (often saying how innocent they are, so it must be true…)? If so, there is a long list of other people, the world over, who are at risk of not getting a fair trial because they cant afford Â£100,000 on legal fees… Where shall I start?
Not to be outdone, Cheshire-based millionaire Brian Kennedy has jumped squarely on the bandwagon as well. This time, saying “he felt compelled to help” the offer reads:
He said he was providing Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, Leics, with the support of his in-house lawyer and their new spokesman, Clarence Mitchell.
Wow. They have a Â£100,000 defence fund and a top flight lawyer as well as a brand new “family spokesman.” They are sure to get a fair trial now, aren’t they…
Even if you leave aside, again, the issue of what an innocent family need with a “spokesman” the whole deal is madness. These otherwise intelligent and shrewd business geniuses are jumping to support what is basically two people who are suspects in a disappearance – there aren’t even any formal charges yet! – so one has to ask what is going on here.
The cynic in me (and it is a strong cynic) thinks this is nothing more than publicity stunts for the two tycoons – Virgin are going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment and, be honest, who has even heard of Brian Kennedy in the past? I am sure if the McCann’s were not worldwide media personalities now (will they be on Big Brother one day or, more ironically, “I’m a celebrity get me out of here…”?) neither of these two would have given a hoot about their legal status, nor any possible “Unfairness” over a foreign court.
However, I may be wrong. It is entirely possible that these two gentlemen are so “family orientated” that any case involving a missing or dead child, where other family members are suspects, will inspire them to equal acts of generosity. If we look through the recent news we should see boundless cases of parents accused of a crime, claiming they are innocent and then millions being thrown at them to ensure a fair trial. Sadly this is not the case.
Today, the BBC has a short article on a teenage mother who has been remanded to appear before Norwich Crown Court, charged with Causing or Allowing the Death of her daughter. Assuming she pleads innocent, will we expect to see a defence fund in her name set up? Or does Richard Branson think, because she is a teenage mother being tried in the UK, she is not worthy of his support? Will she have to suffice with legal aid because she doesn’t own a house to threaten to sell to cover her costs?
In August, the BBC had a report about a teenage girl who went missing (Natasha Coombs) which led with the heart rending:
An insurance firm manager whose only child went missing nearly a week ago, has spoken of his “unimaginable pain” at her disappearance.
Despite this, there was no fund set up to raise awareness about her status, after she was found dead on the railway line there was no fund set up to help either the family or prevent further deaths – certainly no billionaires stepped in to help and eventually when the mother could take the loss no longer, there is still no public outpouring. Cruel though it may sound, the McCanns still have each other and two other children, Gary Coombs really does have nothing left.
Searching through the news to find similar cases is, sadly, all to easy. Almost daily there is a case where a child goes missing (or dies) and a family member is under suspicion. Unfortunately lots of these are in working class or ethnic minority households. While I am not going to suggest that we, as a nation, have such deep seated double standards that this impacts the perception, it is strange.
The question I would love to ask Sir Richard or Brian is what makes the McCann parents special? Why do they deserve this support when no one else does? If I could ask the public this, I would, but I think the answer would be a lot less coherent.
[tags]Double Standards, Catholic, Catholicism, Church, Murder, Kate McCann, Gerry McCann, Maddie McCann, Sir Richard Branson, Richard Branson, Brian Kennedy, Gary Coombs, Natasha Coombs, Killing, Violence, Society, Culture, Racism, Philosophy, Legal Aid, Trial, Fair Trial, Defence Fund, Patrick Kielty,Portugal, Portuguese police, Law[/tags]