(en) [dante@halcyon.com: Activists Found Guilty in "McLibel" Case]

Greg Jackson (bd982@scn.org)
Thu, 19 Jun 1997 18:42:35 -0700 (PDT)


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================= Begin forwarded message =================

From: dante@halcyon.com (Dan Tenenbaum) To: activists@u.washington.edu (Rabble Rousers) Subject: Activists Found Guilty in "McLibel" Case Date: Thu, 19 Jun

http://www.yahoo.com/headlines/970619/news/stories/mcdonalds_1.html Bad news.... > ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Thursday June 19 10:21 AM EDT
>
> Activists Found Guilty in "McLibel" Case
>
> By Patricia Reaney
>
> LONDON (Reuter) - After the longest trial in English legal history,
> two penniless activists were found guilty of libeling hamburger giant
> McDonald's and ordered to pay $98,000 in damages Thursday.
>
> The judge found that statements in a six-page pamphlet published by
> Helen Steel, 31, and Dave Morris, 43, in 1984 that McDonald's was
> responsible for starvation in the Third World, destruction of
> rainforests and for selling unhealthy food "injured the plaintiff's
> reputation."
>
> "The majority of the defamatory statements I found to be untrue.
> Others were true," Judge Rodger Bell said in his nearly two-hour
> summation of a three-volume verdict on the "McLibel" case that has
> attracted worldwide attention.
>
> "In my view, the unjustified allegations of blame for starvation in
> the Third World and destruction of rainforests, and of knowingly
> selling food with a serious risk, of damaging their customers' health,
> are particularly damaging," Bell told a packed court room in London's
> Royal Courts of Justice.
>
> "On the other hand, there has been an element of justification in
> relation to the plaintiff's advertising, their responsibility for some
> cruelty toward some of the animals which are reared and slaughtered
> for their products...and low pay," he added.
>
> Because the activists are penniless it will be up to McDonald's to
> decide if they will pursue the damages. The burger chain has said it
> is not looking to destroy the activists, just to stop them spreading
> the allegations.
>
> The judge said that although a lot of the statements were found to be
> untrue, the pamphlet did expose some unsatisfactory conditions at the
> company that were taken into account when assessing damages. Bell said
> some of McDonald's publicity material was misleading.
>
> The "David and Goliath" trial of the part-time barmaid and the
> unemployed single father accused of libelling the $30 billion a year
> corporation is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as England's
> longest trial. There has been a longer trial under Scottish law.
>
> The case, which started in 1990, contained 313 days of testimony,
> eight weeks of closing speeches and six months of deliberation.
>
> Because the case was so complicated -- dealing with testimony from 180
> witnesses on topics ranging from food packaging and manufacturing to
> labor practices, the destruction of rain forests and health issues --
> Bell deemed it too complicated for a jury.
>
> While the judge was reading out the summation, he was forced
> repeatedly to stop and correct himself, so complex were the issues
> under review.
>
> The case has also been the subject of a two-part television
> documentary, a 300-page book and countless newspaper and magazine
> articles. It has spawned support groups and its own Internet website
> which features 19,000 pages of court testimony.
>
> The case is estimated to have cost 10 million pounds. Steel and Morris
> denied that they defamed the world's biggest restaurant chain in a
> six-page pamphlet entitled "What's Wrong With McDonalds," and have
> spent most of the past three years trying to prove it.
>
> The 1984 pamphlet produced by London Greenpeace, a little known group
> with no relation to Greenpeace International, alleged that the burger
> giant promoted an unhealthy diet, ruined the environment, was hostile
> to trade unions and exploited children and workers.
>
> After receiving libel writs from McDonald's in 1989 three of the five
> London Greenpeace leaders apologised, but Steel and Morris were
> determined to have their day in court.
>
> Their day turned into years. Court proceedings began in June 1994
> after 28 pre-trial hearings and ended late last year.
>
> Denied legal aid and with no training the unlikely duo, who were
> always casually dressed in jeans and sweatshirts, conducted their own
> defense, and by all accounts, held their own against the impeccably
> wigged and robed Richard Rampton, one of England's top libel lawyers.
>
> Writer Auberon Waugh described the proceedings in the sombre courtroom
> number 35 of London's Royal Courts of Justice as the "best free
> entertainment in town." Leading lawyer Michael Mansfield has called it
> "the trial of the century."
>
> Before the verdict, the two activists had vowed to appeal and they
> said they might take their case to the European Court of Human Rights
> claiming the libel laws in England are oppressive.
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

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