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The McLibel Defendants (Helen Steel & Dave Morris) are appealing in the British courts against the parts of the Judge's verdict which went against them and over some of the disturbing legal aspects of the case - the Court of Appeal hearing is scheduled for January 12th 1999 and expected to last over a month. Helen & Dave are appealing to protect the public's right to freedom of speech. If unsuccessful in the Appeal Court, they intend to take the British government to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the UK's unfair and oppressive libel laws - challenging the denial of Legal Aid and the right to a jury trial, and laws stacked in favour of Plaintiffs. They are arguing that multinational corporations should not be allowed to sue for libel.

On the 3rd September 1997, the Notice of Appeal was lodged with the Court of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal is 21 pages long and responds to the 762 page Judgment of the McLibel trial judge, Mr Justice Bell. The defendants have prepared and served hundreds of pages of written submissions for the appeal.

The Defendants, and indeed most informed observers, believe that they won a great legal and moral victory against the McDonald's Corporation, who (after damning findings against their core business practices) on July 18th 1997 abandoned all legal action to try to prevent any repetition of the same or similar criticisms as those they sued over, despite this being the company's stated aim in bringing the case. They also failed to apply for their costs, and have not attempted to enforce the damages.

Some of the major points in the Notice of Appeal which will be raised at the Court of Appeal are:

Point 1.
Freedom of Speech: 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 (in line with governmental organisations), since they have huge power and influence over many people's lives, and the environment.

Points 3 & 4.
Reasonable Belief: If there is a right to sue, then it should be enough for a defendant to show 'reasonable belief' in the words complained of. Alternatively that it should be enough to show that the issues are of public importance or are a response to a perceived attack on the rights of others (eg. by multinationals against society, animals and the environment etc).

Points 5 & 6.
Abuse of Process: 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, the denial of a jury, and the delay in bringing proceedings (the London Greenpeace Factsheet was produced in 1986).

Points 8 - 12.
Publication: The judge erred in failing to find that the Defendants had no case to answer since neither wrote or printed the Factsheet, and that the evidence failed to demonstrate a single instance of either Defendant distributing the Factsheet. His ruling that mere involvement in a group (London Greenpeace) shows 'joint enterprise' contravenes Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the right of freedom of association.

Points 13 - 17.
Consent: McDonald's effectively consented to the distribution of the London Greenpeace Factsheet by their 1988 agreement with Veggies Ltd (over continued distribution of the factsheet with only very limited changes in two sections) and due to the admissions by their hired infiltrators that they had distributed the Factsheet themselves. The Judge erred by showing double standards in his ruling that mere involvement in group is 'joint enterprise' but that this didn't apply to McDonald's and their agents because they had a different motive.

Point 18.
McDonalds' admissions: The judge erred by not giving full weight to the numerous damaging admissions made by McDonald's witnesses in the witness box, and by not immediately finding for the defendants on those issues.

Points 19 - 20.
The Judge's bias: The Judge erred and displayed bias by generally giving added weight to the evidence of McDonald's witnesses (nearly all still in the employ or financial ambit of the company) in contrast to the independant evidence of the Defence witnesses.

Point 20a.
McDonald's reputation irretrievably damaged by the verdict: The Judge erred in not finding for the defendants overall after his findings that damaging allegations about McDonald's core business practices had been proven (e.g. exploiting children, depressing wages in the catering industry, deceiving customers by promoting their food as 'nutritious', being culpably responsible for animal cruelty). These findings result in such considerable injury to McDonald's reputation that the unproven allegations don't have any further material effect.

Points 22 - 51.
Issues proven: (For each of the major issues in the case, other than those the Defendants won outright). The Judge erred in his extreme and legalistic interpretation of what the Defendants had to prove, by failing to distinguish between the criticisms of the food industry/multinationals in general and of McDonald's in particular, and failing to recognise the existence of opinion and comment. He also erred in not finding the Defendants had overwhelmingly proved their case on each issue - based on his own Judgement, McDonald's admissions and official documentation, and the clear weight of the evidence.

Points 52 - 60.
The Counterclaim proven: The trial Judge erred in not finding for the Defendants over their claim against McDonald's for publishing documents attacking the Defendants. This was despite his ruling that the McDonald's material contained defamatory statements about the Defendants which had not been justified. He was wrong to rule that the company was protected by 'qualified privilege' as it had been under 'attack' from the two Defendants (criticising the company for bringing the McLibel court case).

Points 61 - 63.
Damages: The Judge was wrong in awarding substantial damages or any damages at all to the Plaintiffs.

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