re: McDonald's Libel Action

from: Suit With a Side Order of Fries

by Helen Steel

London Greenpeace
5 Caledonian Road
Kings Cross
N1 9DX

3rd January 1996

Letters Page The Scotsman

Dear Editor,

Mike Love, for McDonald's, complained (letters 28/12/95) of an 'inaccurate and misleading' article by Tariq Tahir (19/12/95) about the current McDonald's libel action. Obviously I disagree with Mr Love's analysis of the effect of the evidence given in court, and also with the reasons he gave for bringing the case, but I am writing in particular to correct some of the more misleading statements he made.

  1. Mr Love says McDonald's only brought this case after ten years of trying to settle the matter out of court. The reality is that McDonald's never communicated with me, my co-defendant or London Greenpeace about the leaflet until the 21st September 1990 when the company served libel writs on us. Ten years before the company began the action I was only 15, still at school, and, as amazing as it may now seem, I don't think I had even heard of McDonald's.

  2. Mr Love implies the article was wrong to suggest that McDonald's was surprised by the length of the trial. If, as he claims, McDonald's "always knew this would be a long case", perhaps he can explain why, during their application for a trial without a jury, Richard Rampton (McDonald's QC) told the Judge he expected the trial to take 3-4 weeks (as correctly reported in your article). Incidentally, I believe we told Mr Tahir that about 80 witnesses had so far given evidence, so I presume the 180 in the original article was a misprint.

  3. It was entirely McDonald's choice to go back on their earlier promise to provide daily transcripts of the trial, and contrary to what is suggested by Mr Love's letter, there is no legal ruling which prevents them providing us with copies. McDonald's wanted us to give a written undertaking which, amongst other things, would have prevented us from showing or reading any extract of any transcript to any journalist. No such restriction applies to McDonald's, or to anyone else who purchases the transcripts. When we refused to give the undertaking, McDonald's withdrew the transcripts. Naturally we feel that this was an attempt to stifle publicity about the case and prevent us giving people accurate information about the evidence given in court. If, as Mr Love claims, McDonald's wishes above all to ensure that the public know the truth, why do they seem so anxious to prevent the public from hearing what is said in open court?

    Helen Steel
    Defendant in McDonald's libel action

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