THE two defendants who last week lost the marathon libel case against the McDonald's fast-food chain yesterday joined hundreds of environmental protesters distributing leaflets condemning the company.
Helen Steel and David Morris, who became known as the "McLibel Two" during the record 314-day trial, were among those handing out leaflets outside a McDonald's in north London. Similar demonstrations took place in other parts of the country, as well as in Australia and America. But the protest fell short of the hopes of the organisers, who had predicted that more than 500 British outlets would be picketed. The company said last night there had only been isolated reports of protests.
McDonald's had warned that Ms Steel, 31, and Mr Morris, 43, a former postman, could face an injunction preventing them from picketing its outlets if their leaflets repeated any libellous allegations. But no injunction was issued. The pair's claims that McDonald's had poisoned its customers and exploited Third World countries were rejected by the court. But the pair claimed a moral victory yesterday. McDonald's executives and legal advisers are studying Mr Justice Bell's 800-page ruling. Although he found against Ms Steel and Mr Morris, he also ruled that the company paid low wages to its workers, contributed towards the cruel treatment of some of the animals used in its products, and used advertising designed to exploit children.
In his summary judgment, Mr Justice Bell criticised claims that McDonald's made for the nutritional value of its food in the late Eighties. Mr Morris and Ms Steel both said yesterday that they would not pay the damages of £60,000 awarded to the company, even if able. "We don't have any money, and they don't deserve any damages," said Mr Morris. The pair intend to appeal against the libel verdict, and to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
They intend to take legal action tomorrow against the detectives hired by McDonald's to infiltrate the London Greenpeace group [not related to the larger Greenpeace organisation] in the Eighties and who admitted helping distribute the original leaflets over which McDonald's took them to court.
Mike Love, a McDonald's spokesman, said the company did not intend to pursue Ms Steel and Mr Morris for the damages if they were unable to pay. "We feel vindicated by the judgment."
8 May 1996: McDonald's may 'waive damages if it wins libel'