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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 05/07/00
MET POLICE PAY £10,000 TO McLIBEL 2 OVER DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFO TO McDONALD'S
McLibel Support Campaign 5 Caledonian Road, London, N1, UK. Tel/Fax (020) 7713 1269 E-mail: email@example.com Info at: www.mcspotlight.org ________________________________
MET POLICE PAY £10,000 TO McLIBEL 2 OVER DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFO TO McDONALD'S - Commissioner forced to agree to alert all officers not to pass on confidential data 6 years after the McLibel trial started on 28th June 1994, the High Court has sealed an out of court settlement order in a separate case brought by the McLibel 2. Helen Steel (34) and Dave Morris (46), launched proceedings on 17th September 1998 against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Detective Sergeant David Valentine, over their disclosure of confidential information to McDonald's, claiming damages for misfeasance in public office, breach of confidence and breach of their right to privacy.
The trial had been set to start last month, but in order to avoid what they called 'a difficult and lengthy trial' the Met agreed to pay £10,000 to the McLibel 2, plus their legal costs, and most significantly 'to bring this settlement to the attention of the 3 Area Commanders of the Metropolitan Police Force and ask them to remind their officers of their responsibility not to disclose information on the Police National Computer to a third party.' Under the consent order finalised today, DS Valentine also stated he 'regretted any distress of the claimants caused by the disclosure of their details' to a private investigator hired by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace.
It emerged during the McLibel trial that police (including Special Branch) officers had passed private and in some cases false information about the McLibel 2 (and other protestors), including home addresses, to McDonald's and to their private investigator.
Sid Nicholson, McDonald's Head of Security and a former Met Chief Superintendent, had stated from the witness box that McDonald's security department were 'all ex-policemen' and if he ever wanted to know information about protestors he would go to his contacts in the police (day 249 of the trial, transcripts p38).
The McLibel 2 said today: "At the 11th hour the police pulled out of facing a case which would've demonstrated illegal police practices. In recent years there have been a number of publicised incidents of the police passing information about campaigners to private companies. It's clear that their claim to be impartial defenders of the public is a hollow one. This collusion reveals the political role of the police in ensuring the wheels of big business keep turning. This case has forced the Met to warn all London police officers against such practices."
On March 31st 1999 the Court of Appeal added to those damning findings. Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane ruled that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions", and true that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease.'" However, largely on the basis of a legalistic and semantic interpretation of the leaflet, the Courts still ruled that the McLibel 2 had libelled McDonald's over some points and ordered them to pay damages to the company.
The McLibel 2 are currently preparing a case to go before the European Court of Human Rights, seeking to defend the public's right to criticise companies whose business practices affect people's lives, health and the environment, arguing that multinational corporations should no longer be able to sue for libel. They also seek an end to unfair and oppressive defamation laws and procedures in general, and in their case in particular. This follows the refusal, in April 2000, of the House of Lords to allow them leave for a full appeal to be heard there over the remaining issues and the basic principles of libel law.