SUMMARY OF THE McLIBEL APPEAL POINTS:
The McLibel Defendants (Helen Steel & Dave Morris) are appealing in the
British courts against the parts of the Judge's verdict which went against
them and over some of the disturbing legal aspects of the case - the Court
of Appeal hearing is scheduled for January 12th 1999 and expected to last
over a month. Helen & Dave are appealing to protect the public's right to
freedom of speech. If unsuccessful in the Appeal Court, they intend to
the British government to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn
UK's unfair and oppressive libel laws - challenging the denial of Legal Aid
and the right to a jury trial, and laws stacked in favour of Plaintiffs.
They are arguing that multinational corporations should not be allowed to
sue for libel.
On the 3rd September 1997, the Notice of Appeal was lodged with the Court
Appeal. The Notice of Appeal is 21 pages long and responds to the 762 page
Judgment of the McLibel trial judge, Mr Justice Bell. The defendants have
prepared and served hundreds of pages of written submissions for the
The Defendants, and indeed most informed observers, believe that they won a
great legal and moral victory against the McDonald's Corporation, who
damning findings against their core business practices) on July 18th 1997
abandoned all legal action to try to prevent any repetition of the same or
similar criticisms as those they sued over, despite this being the
stated aim in bringing the case. They also failed to apply for their
and have not attempted to enforce the damages.
Some of the major points in the Notice of Appeal which will be raised at
Court of Appeal are:
Freedom of Speech: Multinational corporations, should have no
right to sue for libel as it is in the overriding public interest that they
be subjected to unfettered scrutiny and criticism (in line with
organisations), since they have huge power and influence over many people's
lives, and the environment.
Points 3 & 4.
Reasonable Belief: If there is a right to sue, then it
be enough for a defendant to show 'reasonable belief' in the words
complained of. Alternatively that it should be enough to show that the
issues are of public importance or are a response to a perceived attack on
the rights of others (eg. by multinationals against society, animals and
Points 5 & 6.
Abuse of Process: The McLibel case was an abuse of legal
process due to several factors, for example, the imbalance of financial and
legal resources as between the two sides, the denial of a jury, and the
delay in bringing proceedings (the London Greenpeace Factsheet was produced
Points 8 - 12.
Publication: The judge erred in failing to find that the
Defendants had no case to answer since neither wrote or printed the
Factsheet, and that the evidence failed to demonstrate a single instance of
either Defendant distributing the Factsheet. His ruling that mere
involvement in a group (London Greenpeace) shows 'joint enterprise'
contravenes Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights
guaranteeing the right of freedom of association.
Points 13 - 17.
Consent: McDonald's effectively consented to the
distribution of the London Greenpeace Factsheet by their 1988 agreement
Veggies Ltd (over continued distribution of the factsheet with only very
limited changes in two sections) and due to the admissions by their hired
infiltrators that they had distributed the Factsheet themselves. The Judge
erred by showing double standards in his ruling that mere involvement in
group is 'joint enterprise' but that this didn't apply to McDonald's and
their agents because they had a different motive.
McDonalds' admissions: The judge erred by not giving full weight
to the numerous damaging admissions made by McDonald's witnesses in the
witness box, and by not immediately finding for the defendants on those
Points 19 - 20.
The Judge's bias: The Judge erred and displayed bias by
generally giving added weight to the evidence of McDonald's witnesses
(nearly all still in the employ or financial ambit of the company) in
contrast to the independant evidence of the Defence witnesses.
McDonald's reputation irretrievably damaged by the verdict: The
Judge erred in not finding for the defendants overall after his findings
that damaging allegations about McDonald's core business practices had been
proven (e.g. exploiting children, depressing wages in the catering
deceiving customers by promoting their food as 'nutritious', being culpably
responsible for animal cruelty). These findings result in such considerable
injury to McDonald's reputation that the unproven allegations don't have
further material effect.
Points 22 - 51.
Issues proven: (For each of the major issues in the case,
other than those the Defendants won outright). The Judge erred in his
extreme and legalistic interpretation of what the Defendants had to prove,
by failing to distinguish between the criticisms of the food
industry/multinationals in general and of McDonald's in particular, and
failing to recognise the existence of opinion and comment. He also erred in
not finding the Defendants had overwhelmingly proved their case on each
issue - based on his own Judgement, McDonald's admissions and official
documentation, and the clear weight of the evidence.
Points 52 - 60.
The Counterclaim proven: The trial Judge erred in not
finding for the Defendants over their claim against McDonald's for
publishing documents attacking the Defendants. This was despite his ruling
that the McDonald's material contained defamatory statements about the
Defendants which had not been justified. He was wrong to rule that the
company was protected by 'qualified privilege' as it had been under
from the two Defendants (criticising the company for bringing the McLibel
Points 61 - 63.
Damages: The Judge was wrong in awarding substantial
damages or any damages at all to the Plaintiffs.