McLibel Battle Marks Its First Birthday

Valentine Low

Evening Standard, June 28, 1995

STAN STEIN did not look like celebrating. Today, the longest running libel trial in British legal history, marked its first birthday but as Mr Stein - senior vice president of McDonald's - stood in the witness box he looked as if, on the whole, he would rather be back home in Chicago.

When the fast food giant sued environmental activists Helen Steel, and Dave Morris for libel over a pamphlet they distributed McDonald's thought the case would be over in a few weeks.

Since then more than 50 witnesses have appeared before the High Court, with another 100 still to be heard.

There is, at present, no end in sight. The McLibl Two, as they have become inevitably known, are providing what Auberon Waugh called: "the best free entertainment in London": an ex-postal worker, Morris, and a gardener, Steel, taking on the might of one of the world's biggest corporations.

On one side there is one of the libel world's most experienced QCs, Richard Rampton; on the other there is Morris and Steel conducting their own defence.

The company maintains that they libelled McDonald's in a leaflet which accused them of damaging the environment, promoting an unhealthy diet, being cruel to animals, exploiting children through advertising and workers through low pay, and hostility to trade unions.

McDonald's legal expenses are estimated at more than £5,000 a day and by the end of the case, the company could find itself up to £2million out of pocket. As the case drags on, one might even find some sympathy for the lawyers involved . Today Mr Rampton was asked by a reporter if he knew how many witnesses there had been so far. No he didn't: "It's all a blur."

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