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Wednesday, March 31, 1999 Published at 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK


McLibel duo gain part victory

McDonald's: The case has cost the company about 10m

Two environmental campaigners have won a partial victory in the latest round of their mammoth libel battle with burger giant McDonald's.

The Court of Appeal said David Morris and Helen Steel will be allowed to appeal "some" of the points on which, at an earlier hearing, they were found to have libelled the fast food chain.

In a 300-page document, the three appeal judges also cut McDonald's 60,000 damages award by 20,000.

Mr Morris, 44, a former postman, and Ms Steel, 33, a former gardener, were ordered in June 1997 to pay 60,000 damages after a 314-day trial - the longest libel case in English legal history.

The BBC's Dominic Hughes reports on the longest libel case in British History
Mr Justice Bell ruled that the company had been libelled by most of the allegations in a London Greenpeace campaign leaflet entitled What's Wrong with McDonald's?.

But he found the leaflet was true when it accused McDonald's of paying low wages to its workers, being responsible for cruelty to some of the animals used in its food products and exploiting children in advertising campaigns.

Libel law as 'censorship'

During the appeal hearing Mr Morris told the court that McDonald's had never applied for its damages or costs or for an injunction banning further publication of the leaflet.

He said the use of libel laws by multinational corporations was a form of censorship and called for a change in the law to protect campaigning organisations being sued by them.

The pair argued that Mr Justice Bell erred in not clearing them overall after he ruled that some of the points they made were correct.

Ms Steel told the judges during the hearing that the leaflet was reporting what other environmental organisations and health experts were saying about McDonald's and its products.

She said that neither of them had written or printed the leaflet and the High Court's ruling that their involvement in London Greenpeace showed "joint enterprise" contravened the European Convention of Human Rights guaranteeing the right of freedom of association.

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