This morning (15th February) the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg declared that the notorious and long running McLibel case was in breach of the right to a fair trial and right to freedom of expression. The McLibel 2 (Helen Steel & Dave Morris) had launched legal proceedings against the UK government arguing that the marathon 'McLibel trial' which lasted 313 days - the longest trial of any kind in English legal history - and UK libel laws, breached the European Convention on Human Rights Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression).
Press Release | Nottingham cellebrations | Campaign's website
Two campaigners found guilty of libelling McDonald's have won a ruling that they should have been given legal aid by the British Government. Helen Steel and David Morris were dubbed the McLibel Two during a landmark 314-day trial - the longest civil or criminal action in English legal history, where the pair were ordered to pay £40,000 in libel damages.
But instead of paying, they went to the Strasbourg Human Rights Court, claiming the UK libel laws operated heavily in favour of companies like McDonald's. They said the system breached their human rights because they were denied legal aid and because they were obliged to justify every word of the allegations against McDonald's. The Human Rights judges found in their favour, saying the lack of legal aid effectively denied the pair the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Human Rights Convention, to which the UK is a signatory.
They said it also breached their right to freedom of expression. The duo's lawyer Mark Stephens said: "The European Court of Human Rights found there were violations of their human rights perpetrated on them - that there was procedural unfairness in the case and that the procedures adopted were not fair."
The saga began when the US firm decided to act after the pair handed out leaflets entitled What's Wrong With McDonald's. Neither of the defendants wrote the six-page pamphlet, which contained damaging allegations against the company, but found themselves in court. The case began in 1990 and in 1997, after a total of 314 days of hearing, High Court judge Mr Justice Bell ruled McDonald's had been libelled and awarded the company £60,000 in damages, reduced to £40,000 on appeal. The case is thought to have cost the fast food giant £10m and was described as "the biggest corporate PR disaster in history".