The McLibel saga continues. Having been given an Appeal start date of 12th
January 1999*, the McLibel defendants wrote to the UK Court of Appeal in
mid-May asking for an extension of time to lodge appeal bundles with the
court (deadline 17th July). This involves sorting through, copying and
filing 5 sets of around 40,000 pages of documents (for themselves,
McDonald's and three appeal judges). The defendants also asked for a
dispensation from the requirement that they pay for transcripts of the trial
to be delivered to the Court of Appeal direct from the transcribers (at a
cost of approx 20,000 pounds), and they put forward alternative proposals.
The Court wrote back telling the defendants that they must make these
applications at a pre-appeal directions hearing set for 2nd July.
Six weeks later, the court phoned Mr Morris to inform him that the directions hearing had been postponed to an unspecified date. A few days later they followed this with a letter stating that the McLibel 2 must lodge their appeal bundles by the 17th July even if the directions hearing hadn't taken place. The defendants now have only 2 weeks to complete over 200,000 pages of photocopying and filing and drum up enough money to pay for both that and the 20,000 pounds bill for the transcripts. The penalty if they don't comply? Their Appeal could well be struck out without any hearing taking place at all.
A convenient way to prevent the longest trial in English history from becoming the longest ever Appeal. Perhaps that's what the court is up to.
The full McLibel Appeal begins on January 12th 1999 (currently estimated to last 3 months), when Helen Steel (32) and Dave Morris (44) will be in court once again to challenge the use of libel laws as a form of censorship, and to overturn the parts of the verdict which went against them. On June 19th 1997 Mr Justice Bell ruled that McDonald's 'exploit children', deceptively promote their food as 'nutritious', risk the health of their long-term regular customers, are 'culpably responsible for animal cruelty' and pay 'low wages' - but found for the company on some other points. Significantly McDonald's have not appealed over these damning rulings against them. The McLibel 2 also intend to take the British Govt. 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 will argue that multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel.