McLIBEL APPEAL BEGINS 12th JANUARY
The full McLibel Appeal begins on Tuesday 12th January 1999 at 10.30am, when Helen Steel (33) and Dave Morris (44) will be in court once again to challenge the use of libel laws as a form of censorship, and to overturn the parts of the verdict which went against them in the controversial case brought by the McDonald's Corporation.
On June 19th 1997, after a 314-day trial - the longest in English history - in which the defendants had been denied Legal Aid and their right to a jury trial, Mr Justice Bell ruled that "various of McDonald's advertisements, promotions and booklets have pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat etc) did not match" and that "customers who eat McDonald's food several times a week will take the very real risk of heart disease if they continue to do so throughout their lives encouraged by McDonald's advertising". He further ruled that McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy, are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty" and "pay low wages" - but despite this, awarded £60,000 damages to McDonald's on the basis that he considered that Helen & Dave had not proven some other points.
Significantly McDonald's have not appealed over these damning rulings against them, this week stating that the Judge was 'correct in his conclusions' (submissions, 5.1.99). The McLibel 2 will argue that these and other findings against McDonald's core business practices were so damaging to the reputation of McDonald's that the Corporation's claim for libel should have been thrown out.
Helen & Dave will submit that the Judgment should in any event have been in their favour based on the overwhelming evidence supporting their case, and that the parts of the verdict that were against them were found on the basis of extreme and unnatural interpretations of the meaning of the London Greenpeace factsheet, including satirical cartoons and graphics.
The McLibel 2 will also argue that in order to protect the public's right to scrutinise and criticise companies whose business practices may affect our lives, health and environment, multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel. McDonald's have asked the Appeal Court to prevent Helen & Dave pursuing this submission unless they give an undertaking that they will pay all of McDonald's costs for the main trial if they succeed on this point!
After the verdict Channel 4 News said the case would go down as 'the biggest Corporate PR disaster in history'. McDonald's aim of suppressing the "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets spectacularly backfired, with over 3 million handed out in the UK alone since the writs were served, 400,000 in the week after the verdict - and they are now being distributed worldwide. The 'McSpotlight' website, with over 20,000 files about McDonald's and the trial, has now been accessed over 65 million times.
The Appeal takes place in Court 1, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2.
Leaflets will be handed out during a protest picket outside the court on Tuesday 12th January, 9.30 - 11am.
Global McLibel Screening
Note: Background information on the case and verdict is available from the McLibel Support Campaign, or by visiting the McSpotlight website (details at top of page).