McLIBEL APPEAL VERDICT 31st MARCH
The verdict for the McLibel Appeal will be handed down at 11am on Wednesday 31st March, at the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand WC2 (Court room not yet announced). There will be a picket outside the Court from 10am- 11am. The McLibel Appeal was heard by Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane. It began on 12th January 1999 and lasted 23 days in court, ending on 26th February. Helen Steel (33) and Dave Morris (45) once again challenged the use of libel laws as a form of mass censorship, and argued for the overturning of the parts of the original verdict which went against them in the controversial case brought by the McDonald's Corporation.
On June 19th 1997, after a 314-day trial - the longest in English history - in which the defendants had been denied Legal Aid and their right to a jury trial, Mr Justice Bell ruled that "various of McDonald's advertisements, promotions and booklets have pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat & salt etc) did not match" and that "customers who eat McDonald's food several times a week will take the very real risk of heart disease if they continue to do so throughout their lives encouraged by McDonald's advertising". He further ruled that McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy, are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty" and "pay low wages" - but despite this, awarded £60,000 damages to McDonald's on the basis that he considered that Helen & Dave had not proven some other points.
Significantly McDonald's did not appeal over these damning rulings against them, stating that the Judge was 'correct in his conclusions' (written submissions 5.1.99). The McLibel 2 argued during the appeal that these and other findings against McDonald's core business practices were so damaging to reputation of McDonald's that the Corporation's claim for libel should have been thrown out.
Helen & Dave submitted that the Judgment should in any event have been in their favour based on the overwhelming evidence supporting their case, and that the parts of the verdict that were against them were found on the basis of extreme and unnatural interpretations of the meaning of the London Greenpeace factsheet, including satirical cartoons and graphics. They also argued that McDonald's had consented to the publication of the factsheet by a previous agreement with the main distributors of the document (Veggies Ltd) and by the actions of their hired infiltrators who admitted distributing it.
The McLibel 2 also argued that in order to protect the public's right to scrutinise and criticise companies whose business practices may affect our lives, health and environment, multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel over public interest issues.
Channel 4 news said the case would go down as 'the biggest Corporate PR disaster in history'. McDonald's aim of suppressing the "What's Wrong With McDonald's?" leaflets has spectacularly backfired, with over 3 million handed out in the UK alone since the writs were served, 400,000 in the weekend after the verdict - and they are now being distributed worldwide.
The 'McSpotlight' website containing over 20,000 files about McDonald's & McLibel has been accessed over 65 million times.
If Helen and Dave do not succeed in this appeal, they intend to appeal to the House of Lords and then take the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, in order to protect the public's right to criticise rich and powerful institutions which dominate our lives.
Note: Background information on the case, verdict and appeal is available from the McLibel Support Campaign, or by visiting the McSpotlight website (details at top of page).