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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 20/09/00
McLIBEL TWO TAKE UK GOVERNMENT TO EURO-COURT
Today, ten years to the day on which the McDonald's Corporation served libel writs on Helen Steel (35) and Dave Morris (46), the McLibel 2 have lodged an application to take the U.K. Government to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
McLibel Support Campaign 5 Caledonian Road, London, N1, UK. Tel/Fax (020) 7713 1269 E-mail: email@example.com Info at: www.mcspotlight.org
PRESS RELEASE 20th September 2000
McLIBEL TWO CELEBRATE 10TH ANNIVERSARY BY TAKING THE U.K. GOVERNMENT TO THE EUROPEAN COURT
Today, ten years to the day on which the McDonald's Corporation served libel writs on Helen Steel (35) and Dave Morris (46), the McLibel 2 have lodged an application to take the U.K. Government to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Steel and Morris, the two defendants in the longest trial in English legal history, assert that the McLibel trial breached, in particular, Article 6 [right to a fair trial] and Article 10 [right to freedom of expression] of the Human Rights Convention, and that English libel laws are incompatible with the convention.
This follows the refusal, in April 2000, of the House of Lords to allow them leave for a full appeal to be heard there after a controversial trial and appeal resulting in a 'mixed verdict' in which damning rulings were made against McDonalds' core business practices - yet the defendants were ordered to pay the company damages [See 'Background' below].
On the eve of the incorporation (on October 2nd) of the European Human Rights Convention into UK law the McLibel 2 are seeking to defend the public's right to criticise companies whose business practices affect people's lives, health and the environment. They also seek an end to oppressive, unfair and archaic defamation laws and procedures in general, and in their case in particular.
The main arguments in Europe [which as a whole cover breaches of Articles 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14] will be:
- 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 (as applies to governmental organisations), since they have such huge power and influence over people's lives and the environment.
- If there is a right to sue, it should be a defence for a defendant to show 'reasonable belief' in the words complained of, or that the issues are of public importance.
- 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 and the denial of a jury trial.
The European application comes hot on the heels of an important legal victory in July for Steel and Morris. In a related case the Metropolitan Police, in order to avoid what they called 'a difficult and lengthy trial', paid the McLibel 2 £10,000, plus legal costs, over police disclosure of confidential information to McDonald's. The Met agreed to warn all police officers that such practices were unlawful.
McLIBEL BACKGROUND - McDonald's issued writs against the McLibel 2 on 20th September 1990 alleging they had been libelled in the London Greenpeace factsheet: "What's Wrong With McDonald's?". The McLibel trial began on 28th June 1994, and on June 19th 1997, after a trial lasting 314 days, Mr Justice Bell ruled that: McDonald's marketing has "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat & salt etc) did not match"; that McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy; are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty"; and "pay low wages, helping to depress wages in the catering trade."
On March 31st 1999 the Court of Appeal added to those damning findings. Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane ruled that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions", and true that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease." However the Courts ruled that the McLibel 2 had still libelled McDonald's over some points and outrageously ordered them to pay £40,000 damages to the $35 billion-dollar company. The McLibel 2 have refused to pay a penny.
McDonald's, described by commentators at the end of the McLibel trial as being responsible for 'the worst Corporate PR disaster in history', continues to be an ever-growing focus for controversy and opposition around the world. The 16th annual World Anti-McDonald's Day will be held on October 16th (UN 'World Food Day').
______________________________________________________________________ Background information on the case, verdict and appeal is available by visiting the McSpotlight website (details at top of page).