Modern Campaigns

previous CAMPAIGN 2 of 6 next

McLibel Golden arch nemesis

The McLibel case is a latter-day David and Goliath, in which ‘David’ is played by activists Helen Scott and David Morris, ‘Goliath’ is played by international enormo-corporation McDonald's, and the stone is played by the British legal system.

In 1986, Helen and David began distributing leaflets that accused McDonald’s of assorted nastiness, such as torture, poisoning and economic imperialism. McDonald’s, perhaps unsurprisingly, promptly sued for libel.

Small fries

At the time Helen and David earned around £3,500 a year; McDonald’s earned about £22 billion. Not brilliant odds, especially when legal aid is not available in libel cases in England, and when the law requires the defendant to prove the literal truth of every statement in the leaflet. Eek.

Buns of steel

Nevertheless, our plucky campaigners “rolled up their sleeves and got on with it”, in their own words. The resulting case lasted seven years - the longest court action in English history. The spunky pair defended themselves in court, receiving free advice from kindly lawyers…and a first year law student called Kalvin.

The first judge ruled against the pair, ordering them to pay £60,000 to McDonald’s – or about 20 years’ earnings. The defendants immediately appealed, sued Scotland Yard, and wound up taking the English government on in the European Court of Human Rights. They won, and the government had to cough up about 57 grand. Three cheers for Helen and David.

For more info go here:

Watch the film for free on their website