Which is more useful?

Auberon Waugh

The Daily Telegraph: Monday, December 11, 1995

TODAY students of libel law will be opening bottles of champagne all over the country as the mammoth McLibel trial which began on June 28, 1994, moves into its 199th day of hearing in the High Court. This makes it the longest civil case in British history. It had already broken the libel record last March. McDonald's is suing two environmentalists over criticism of the international burger giant which first appeared in a pamphlet five or six years ago. The defendants - Helen Steel (30) and Dave Morris (41) - who between them claim to have an annual income of less than pounds 7,000 - are conducting their own defence. They have no right to legal aid, and have been denied a jury.

The legal bill is thought to be about pounds 2 million so far. Sixty witnesses have been heard, and there are 80 to come. By the time the trial ends, in the summer, it will probably be nearer pounds 10 million. The McDonald's legal team is headed by Richard Rampton QC, one of the country's top experts in libel. There are those who complain about the sums of money lawyers earn in cases of this sort, but I am not sure. An elderly widow in Basingstoke was charged pounds 800 for three and a half hours' work by a plumber she called out to unblock her lavatory. If Mr Rampton and his colleagues were really interested in money, they would become plumbers and spend their time unblocking other people's lavatories.

Back to Media Page