COURT OF APPEAL REJECTS THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY FOR THE
Today the Court of appeal (Lord Justice Neill, Steyn, and Gibson) ruled
that the "McLibel 2" would not be allowed a jury at their trial.
The "McLibel 2" are the defendants in a libel case brought
by McDonalds corporation over a leaflet produced by London Greenpeace. the
trial is expected to last 2-3 months. The Appeals court upheld the decision
of Justice Bell, at a hearing last December, to deny a jury trial. McDonalds
applied for the trial to be heard without a jury arguing that issues of
the links between diet and ill health would be too complex for the jury
The Appeal Court rejected the defense arguments put by Patrick Milmo
QC who was acting pro bono at the request of Liberty, the National Council
for Civil Liberties. He argued that the 2 defendants, who would be un-represented
at trial were up against a huge multi-national corporation in a case of
great public importance, and it was therefore in the public interest that
the case be tried by a jury. He also argued that McDonalds had greatly inflated
the extent of scientific examination needed at the trial, and indeed, the
major "scientific issues" of the link between diet and cancer
was admitted in one of their own publications.
The defendants are considering an appeal application to the House of Lords
over the right to a jury.
DEFENSE EVIDENCE RESTORED
The second part of the defendants appeal was successful - parts of the defendants
case which Justice Bell had struck out last November have been restored.
This means that McDonalds would therefore have to hand over the relevant
documents in their possession, which they have so far withheld, and to answer
questions put by the defendants last July. This may further put off the
start of the trial. After the hearing the defendants said: "The Court
has ruled that the issues in the case are too complex for a jury to understand.
In fact the issues are ones which are frequently in the public eye, and
they are quite capable of understanding them. McDonalds seems to be scared
of the public. We believe that a jury would likely be outraged that this
case was ever brought at all. Libel laws are stacked against freedom of
speech and against ordinary members of the public - but we are determined
to defend the public's right to criticize multinationals."
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
- 1. At the trial McDonalds will be relying on the evidence of 37 witnesses,
including 20 Vice Presidents and Heads of Departments from the UK, Europe
and the USA. The defendants are responding with 70 witnesses and experts.
- 2. According to their annual report, worldwide the McDonalds Corporation
spends about one billion dollars a year in advertising and promotions. Their
annual turnover in 1993 was just short of 23 billion dollars. By contrast
the defendants are unemployed and rely on donations from the public to fight
- 3. On the March 14th McDonalds issued a press release about the case.
This, their official position, was a sloppy and inaccurate summary of the
history of the action. It included libelous allegations of London Greenpeace
supporters trying to "deceive the public" with "lies"
and also complained of the continuing world-wide circulation of leaflets
about the corporation's business practices.
In response, the McLibel support campaign has prepared a package of evidence
for journalists of some of McDonalds' lies in their public pronouncements
about their use of rain forest land, and of cases where they have been judged
to be deceiving the public in relation to packaging, nutrition and use of
chemicals in their food. None of this information is privileged and hence
can be reported, even in England.
- 4. London Greenpeace was formed in 1970/71 and was the only Greenpeace
in England until Greenpeace UK was established in 1977.
McLIBEL CONTROVERSIES CONTINUE TO DELAY TRIAL
April 29, 1995
Burger Giant responds with new propaganda campaign after an
eventful and controversial week of behind-the-scenes legal disputes in the
McDonald's libel case proceedings, the starting date for the High Court
trial has been postponed to 27th June.
HOUSE OF LORDS PETITIONED
The two unwaged defendants, London Greenpeace supporters Helen Steel (28)
and David Morris (40), have lodged a petition to the House of Lords for
the right to a jury trial. Last month the Court of Appeal denied the right
to a jury after McDonald's claimed that the issue of the links between diet
and ill-health were too complex for members of the public (jury) to understand.
But the McLibel 2, backed by Liberty (the British civil rights organisation),
are determined to fight for their legal rights. A decision by the House
of Lords on whether they will hear an Appeal will be made in the next 10
days. If the Two get leave for an appeal hearing, then the unwaged defendants
have 7 days to lodge 18,000 Pounds Sterling security or the appeal cannot
go ahead. This security can be waived if McDonald's agree, but so far they
have refused to do so.
McDONALD'S CHIEFS PUT ON THE SPOT
On Thursday 21st April the defendants, representing themselves as they have
done at over 20 pre-trial hearings so far, alleged in Court that McDonald's
have engaged in a huge "Cover Up" by withholding or destroying
documents relevant to the issues in dispute - particularly regarding the
company's use of beef from cattle reared on ex-rainforest land, and about
international disputes with employees and trade unions.
The two environmentalists, facing McDonald's counsel, top libel lawyer Richard
Rampant QC, argued that the fast food chain's claims that they had no documents
were implausible. Justice Bell ordered company chiefs Ray Cesca (Director
of Global Purchasing for the Corporation), Stan Stein (the Corporation's
Senior Vice President of Personnel and Labour Relations) and Sid Nicholson
(UK Vice President and Ombudsman) to swear written statements (affidavits)
about the existence or otherwise of all the documents the defendants had
listed and were seeking under their right to "Discovery". This
Order has been described by legal experts as "unusual".
BIG MAC RESPONDS - FORMER THATCHER AIDE STEPS IN
On Tuesday 26th April, Michael Quinlan, Chair and Chief Executive of the
burger chain, claimed to the Institute of Directors (IOD) that McDonald's
would double the number of UK stores "within 10 years". At the
same time as he was speaking to the IOD conference, a leaflet produced by
former Margaret Thatcher aide Mike Love (now Head of Communications at McDonald's)
was being distributed nationwide to customers at the company's stores.
The leaflet is headed "Why McDonald's Is Going To Court" and attacks
London Greenpeace, claiming that their "What's Wrong With McDonald's?"
leaflet (the subject of the libel action) is "lies", and complaining
that it has been distributed worldwide since 1984. The 3-month long High
Court trial due to start at the end of June will show that it is the Corporation
itself, with an annual advertising and promotions budget of over $1 billion,
that has been "economical with the truth" about its business practices.
Highlights of the trial, through the testimony of 87 McDonald's witnesses
(including their UK President, and many Vice Presidents) and 70 defence
witnesses, will include claims about the use of cattle reared on ex-rainforest
land, exploitation of staff and opposition to workers' rights, the selling
of unhealthy food, outbreaks of food poisoning caused by burgers, the use
of advertising and gimmicks to entice children into their stores, the responsibility
for the cruel deaths of billions of animals, and the use of mountains of
packaging which is damaging to the environment.