According to Sid Nicholson, Vice President of McDonald's UK, Special Branch agents freely offered information about protestors attending anti-McDonald's demonstrations.
When asked in court who had given McDonald's the names of those involved in the London Grenpeace anti-McDonald's campaign, Nicholson said: "I was told them by Special Branch officers from ARNI (Animal Rights National Index). They telephond me to ask me if I was aware that there was going to be a demonstration outside of our offices and then they indicated that they were interested in the organisation (London Greenpeace) and did I have a perch they could use, and a perch is police parlance for an observation post. I told them I was interested and ... (allowed them to) make use of any facilities they wished."
Indeed Nicholson himself was a member of the police force for 31 years, serving firstly in South Africa and then with the Metropolitan Police; reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent in charge of Brixton police station before leaving the police force. As well as occupying the position as McDonald's Vice-President, Sid Nicholson was also executive Head of Security.
His second in command as non-executive Head of Security is Terry Carrol, another ex-policeman who served under Nicholson in Brixton before becoming Chief Superintendent at Carter Street Police Station in London. Nicholson told th court the only collaboration with Special Branch he was aware of occured in 1989 but evidence suggests the liaison has continued since.
A relatively recent memo from Terry Carrol dated September 22nd 1994 was also read out in court: "I had a meeting with ARNI from Scotland Yard today who gave me the enclosed literature. Some of it we have, other bits are new." Nicholson stated in court that he had "quite a lot of experience with Special Branch officers", but that his first contact with them in relation to London Greenpeace had taken place at a meeting at McDonald's HQ in September 1989. One month later McDonald's employed two separate Private Investigation Agencies to infiltrate London Greenpeace and gatherr intelligence. Nicholson approached both Bishops Investigation Bureau and Kings Investigation Agency but did not tell either of them that they had employed two agencies at once.
Thus each agency sent operatives to London Greenpeace meetings from October 1989 to at least January 1991, knowing nothing about each others activities. During this time these spies opened and rplied to letters, helped distribute campaign leaflets, and mad themselves familiar to London Greenpeace campaigners. One female spy, ex-policewoman Michelle Hooker from Kings Agency, also formed a relationship with one of the London Greenpeace campaigners. Nicholson also admitted in court that some of the operatives stole letters from London Greenpeace.
Whilst Kings employed between four and five investigators on the case, Bishops employed between two and three. As the attendance at London Greenpeace meetings at this time averaged less than ten, it is more than feasible that on a number of occasions half of those attending the meeting were undercover spies.
McDonald's called four of these undercover operatives to testify on its behalf in the trial. However, one of the operatives working for Kings Bureau, Frances Tiller, decided to appear on behalf of the McLibel defendants at the end of June. In her written court statement Tiller states she "felt very uncomfortable doing that particular job ... I believe people are entitled to their views."
In her testimony she identified another undercover operative, Michelle Hooker, caught on film distributing anti-McDonald's leaflets to the public. The two London Greenpeace co-defendants, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, have formally submitted that if agents employed by McDonald's were involved in distributing anti-McDonald's leaflets, then the Corporation are implicated in the very activity over which they are suing.
Meanwhile collaboration between Special Branch and multinational corporations undoubtedly continue, with seriously dire consequences for democratic voic in a world increasingly dominated by such huge commercial leviathans.
Twelve court days after the McLibel trial returned from its summer recess on October 7th, the case became the longest British court battle in history.
According to the Guiness Book of Records, the previous record set in th 1870's was the Titchborne personation case (we know not - SQ) which registered 291 days in court. When the McLibel trial recessed for summer, the number of days in court stood at 280, meaning the trial will easily become a record breaker.
The trial evidence was completed before the recess and all that remains to be heard are the sum-up speeches from each party, for which a maximum of three weeks each has been set. Bearing in mind that the co-defendants, Dave Morris and Helen Steel are considered to be separate parties, the maximum sum-up priod is nine weeks. Whether or not Richard Rampton QC, McDonald's huffing legal representative, will take three weeks to sum up the burger giant's case is a matter of some doubt, but the McLibel team are expecting some last minute legal manouevres from McDonald's. Under British libel law the suing party can alter its statement of claim all the way up to the moment the judge retires to consider his verdict. The sum up period and further legal argument will take the trial up to the Christmas period.
It is thus thought unlikely that the judge's verdict will come before the end of this year and is in fact expected around January/ Febuary.
When delivered, howeverr, the verdict is unlikely to be clear cut. McDonald's have cited 16 specific subject areas over which the 'What's Wrong With McDonald's' factsheet is alledgedly libellous and the Judge will issue verdict on each one of these. He will also be required to make judgement on the McLibel defendants' counter claim, issued after a McDonald's leaflet described the accusations levelled against them as 'lies'. All in all then the judge will make 32 judgements - 16 on whether the libellous factsheet has been proved true and 16 on whether the factsheet has provd lies!
As a result the verdict is likely to be various in which party t favours, although the McLibel team consider that, with British libel law as it stands, McDonald's will probably get the majority of favourable decisions. However, it is undoubtedly the case that more factsheets have been distributed, more worldwide campaigners activated against McDonald's, more public knowledge of their techniques of market control and more adverse media coverage has resulted from their surely regretted decision to sue in the first place.
The McLibel Support Campaign are initiating an 'adopt-a-store' scheme for leaflet distribution.