Writ large

Marcel Berlins

The Guardian; 22nd April 1997

It may seem a little odd to publish a full-scale book about a trial before the verdict has been reached, but I think John Vidal's decision to do so is justified. The McLibel trial ended last December after 314 working days, but Mr Justice Bell's decision will not be known until June at the earliest. Vidal's McLibel - Burger Culture on Trial, is an entertaining account of one of the most unequal, unnecessary and often surreal trials to have reached our courts, the battle between the billion-dollar forces of McDonalds versus two penniless campaigners, without legal aid, who didn't even write the leaflet they were sued over. Whichever way the result goes, the trial has proved that we need other means of dealing with such libel disputes. Unfortunately, I doubt that the new Defamation Act will necessarily make a future McLibel impossible.

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