The McLibel Trial was the longest in English legal history, weighing in at
a massive 314 days in court. The leaflet
at the centre of
the trial attacked almost every aspect of McDonald's business and so the court heard evidence
on a wide range of issues.
In English libel law the burden of proof lies on the defendants. In other
words, Helen and Dave had to prove that
all the contested statements in the leaflet were true, rather than McDonald's having to show that they were
McDonald's caseMcDonald's Statement of Claim details the specific complaints the company made about the allegations in the leaflet (although part way through the trial the company changed this in relation to Nutrition and Animal Welfare). Or see Richard Rampton's (McD's barrister) opening speech for an overview of their case and reasons for going to court.
The Defendants' caseHelen and Dave had to produce a Defence (what they contested in McDonald's Statement of Claim) as well as Particulars of Justification and Fair Comment (how they intended to justify the criticisms made in the leaflet). An 8-part document summarising the basics of their case and the evidence they intended to present in court was produced. Also see their opening speeches for an overview of their case and motivations.
WitnessesAfter writing a defence, the next stage is to find first-hand witnesses (ie people who've got direct experience or who have done research) to back up every disputed allegation. Helen and Dave called 60 witnesses from over a dozen countries, including scientists, McDonald's employees, union reps, researchers, nutritionists, environmentalists and animal welfare experts. McDonald's called about 70, including more than a dozen of their top executives from both sides of the Atlantic. Scores of others (mostly from abroad) submitted evidence in writing for both sides.
Each witness had to produce a statement outlining their evidence before they appeared in court. Most of the statements are indexed here, and you can read the oral testimony given in court in the daily court transcripts.
Official Court TranscriptsThese are the daily transcriptions of everything that was said in court - all 313 days worth. That's 19,000 pages, or 80 Mb. As well as the testimony of witnesses it includes many controversial legal arguments over procedure, interpretation of the law, disclosure of documents etc.
Defendants' analysis of the evidenceThe McLibel Support Campaign produced the 'Trial News' series which aimed to analyse and highlight the evidence given in court. They also selected quotable quotes from the witness box (mainly admissions from McDonald's witnesses). All quotes are taken directly from the official court transcripts.
Closing SpeechesAfter all the evidence from the witnesses, both sides had to sum up what they thought the evidence had proved. Helen and Dave went first and spoke for six weeks. McDonald's followed and spoke for, er, one day. But that was because they chose to submit their arguments in writing.
Here we have an (almost completed) daily summary of most of the defendants' speeches and the full text of McDonald's submission.
Legal DocumentsArchive of documents from the trial, including the leaflet, the writ, the counterclaim, appeals and so on.